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Chris Packham is urging for a stop to the damaging growth of Scottish salmon farms.

Chris Packham, a naturalist and broadcaster, has urged for a stop to the growth of the Scottish salmon farming sector. This comes as data shows a peak in salmon mortality on the country’s farms this year.

The head of the RSPCA, Packham, characterized the expanding trade as detrimental to the well-being of fish and the environment in Scotland.

Campaigners for animal rights have embraced his appeal for improved control, implementation, and a cessation of the expansion of the sector. However, they stated that his remarks bring attention to the unsustainable nature of the RSPCA’s certification program for salmon farms.

In 2022, the RSPCA collected £700,000 from salmon farmers and producers through membership and licence fees for its RSPCA Assured program. The scheme covers nearly all Scottish farmed salmon production.

Rachel Mulrenan, director of WildFish in Scotland, stated that it is beneficial for any well-known individual to bring attention to the concerns surrounding salmon farming. However, the RSPCA’s involvement in both certifying salmon farms through RSPCA Assured and advocating for necessary actions creates conflicts and hinders their efforts. While the certificate may suggest good environmental and welfare practices, the reality on the water does not align with this. This is evident in the high mortality rates observed in just this month.

According to the Fish Health Inspectorate, the most recent data reveals that Scottish farms reported 13.5 million salmon deaths between January and October of this year. This is an increase from 11.5 million during the same time period in 2022. The rise in mortality can be attributed to higher levels of disease, parasites, and jellyfish swarms on fish farms.

Don Staniford, a representative of the “Salmon Scam in Scotland” campaign, stated: “Packham is addressing a valid concern. Recent data from October reveals a significant mortality rate in salmon farms. If even their own president is acknowledging the issue, then the RSPCA’s stance is indefensible.”

Viva, a vegan campaigning charity, has released pictures that it says shows farmed fish that have been infested by sea lice.

In a message to backers of Animal Equality (AE), Packham encouraged them to contribute to the organization in order to stop the growth of the Scottish salmon farming sector. Packham expressed concern about the premature deaths of millions of fish, rampant parasites and diseases, and the negative impact on Scotland’s natural environment due to farm waste polluting the seabed. He identified himself as a prominent advocate for animal welfare and overall environmental preservation.

He stated that escapes and breeding with wild fish are causing reduced health and higher chances of sea lice for wild populations.

A representative from the RSPCA stated that Packham’s correspondence to AE advocates was composed in a personal capacity, and clarified that his position at the organization was not related to governance.

The RSPCA released a statement expressing their pride in having Chris Packham as their president, noting his dedication to animal advocacy and their shared goal of improving the lives of all animals.

The organization established the initial guidelines for the welfare of UK-raised salmon, as there were no laws in place for this. Their efforts have improved conditions for salmon welfare on a global scale and they are dedicated to promoting beneficial improvements.

The spokesperson stated that any instances of standard breaches and high mortality were thoroughly investigated and members were suspended while an investigation took place. Appropriate action was then taken to address any shortcomings. No members have been permanently excluded thus far, but the RSPCA will not hesitate to do so if a farm fails to correct any issues.

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The spokesperson stated that although there has been considerable advancement in enhancing the well-being of farmed salmon, there are still notable obstacles that are being actively addressed. The RSPCA plans to release updated welfare guidelines in the upcoming year, which will incorporate additional measures for promoting health, welfare, and humane slaughter.

Iain Berrill, the technical leader at Salmon Scotland, an organization representing the salmon farming sector, expressed disappointment over Chris Packham’s use of misinformation commonly used by those against salmon farming in his letter, considering his influential platform.

A salmon farm at Cairidh on the Isle of Skye with round circles of light floating on the loch

Berrill emphasized that Scottish salmon farmers are committed to upholding the highest welfare standards in the world, which have been independently certified by RSPCA Assured. He stated that while no farmer wants to experience any animal losses, the level of care provided by our farmers results in significantly higher survival rates for farm-raised salmon, which typically spend up to two years in the sea. On average, monthly survival rates are around 97%, surpassing those of their wild counterparts.

A representative from the Scottish government stated that salmon farming in Scotland is closely monitored and regulated, adhering to various standards for fish health, environmental impact, and local authority planning. The industry is also held to strict laws regarding animal health and welfare. Most salmon farms in Scotland are part of the RSPCA assurance scheme and undergo frequent evaluations to ensure compliance.

“We have observed a rise in death rates, largely attributed to previous climate events. We anticipate that producers will strive to minimize mortality rates as much as possible.”

Source: theguardian.com