An ADD control unit on the side of a pen at a Scottish salmon farm. Photo: OTAQ / SSPO.

Salmon farmers to carry out seal scarer risk assessments

The Scottish salmon farming sector is to review the use of acoustic devices deployed on farms to deter predatory seals.

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Farmers will conduct risk assessments on the use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) which are currently used throughout the sector, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) said today.

The move is to ensure the sector remains compliant with an expected tighter enforcement of European regulations on the protection of marine mammals by the Scottish Government.

EPS licences

The SSPO said the initiative is being undertaken after discussions with Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government agency responsible for aquaculture.

Risk assessments will be done in conjunction with Marine Scotland, and officials at the agency will then assess the information produced by the sector and decide whether European Protected Species (EPS) licences might be required for some sites in the future.

The SSPO said salmon farmers are required by law to protect their fish and acoustic devices are a vital part of the management techniques to help prevent attack by a growing population of seals. 

As such, Scotland’s salmon farmers expect and require effective acoustic devices to remain a part of the suite of predator deterrent measures used on fish farms after the review is completed.

‘Intelligent regulation’

SSPO sustainability director Anne Anderson said: “It is critical that, like any farmer, salmon farmers have a suite of deterrents, each of which offers a different protection against predation, particularly as they have a statutory duty to care for the welfare of their fish. 

“This move shows that the salmon farming sector is serious about its long-term sustainability and its commitment to openness and transparency. It also reinforces the sector’s call for robust and intelligent regulation to enable it to operate, plan and grow sustainably.”

Even with the use of ADDs, seals directly kill more than 500,000 farmed salmon in Scotland every year, with many more fish reportedly dying from the stress caused by seal attacks on cages.