THE Scottish salmon industry will look into closed containment systems in its drive to increase production, although this method of farming fish is ‘far from proven’.
Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme that criticism of west coast farms from the lobbying group Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) was ‘trite’.
Guy Linley-Adams of S&TCS repeated claims from the angling lobby that salmon farms spread sea lice and disease.
He suggested on the programme, broadcast on Monday, that some of the earliest salmon farms that had been sited at the mouths of rivers should be closed down and relocated out to sea.
The future of salmon aquaculture in the long-term, he argued, was in closed containment.
‘In Norway, Canada and Ireland they are doing that research and we need to see the same reproduced in Scotland.’
Landsburgh (pictured) said: ‘I agree they’re doing this research in Norway and Canada and we’re going to be looking at doing something similar in Scotland. A lot of innovation is going to take place and part of that is looking at closed containment, but it’s far from proven.
‘It’s a bit like talking about electric cars 15 years ago; they were something that could be the future and we’re seeing, 15 years on, that it may become the future but there’s a lot of innovation work and research to be done before we get there.’
The Scottish salmon sector produces 40 per cent of Scotland’s food exports and employs around 8,000 people directly and indirectly. This year’s exports are on track to reach £650 million, said Landsburgh, more than 50 per cent higher than last year’s total.
The SSPO boss said all Scotland’s 40 million smolts that go to sea annually are free of sea lice.
‘We spend inordinate amounts of money ensuring that we’re in control of our sea lice challenge. The idea that we’re creating disease or create parasite problems for wild fish is an exaggeration.
‘It’s easy for them [S&TCS] to say move farms out to sea but there has been a lot of investment in those farms over the years and it’s a bit trite to expect us to move fish farms.’
However, he added: ‘We do have an aspiration to grow as an industry and we will look at moving to more offshore, higher tidal exchange sites. That is part of the agenda.’
Landsburgh said just over a month ago that the industry performance in sea lice management ‘is the best it has been for several years as a result of the investment in cleaner fish and mechanical removal techniques’.