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SSF's Summer Isles farm team. Photo: SSF.
SSF's Summer Isles farm team. Photo: SSF.

Scottish Sea Farms has achieved its first Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification, for three farms in the Summer Isles.

SSF also achieved chain of custody certification of its processing and packing facilities at South Shian near Oban. That certification confirms that the necessary procedures are in place to ensure that any fish that go on to carry the ASC logo are from an ASC certified farm.

The company’s target is to have a further five farms and processing facilities ASC certified by the end of 2022.

‘The global elite’

For a farm to gain certification, it must be independently audited and assessed as meeting ASC requirements covering regulatory compliance, fish health, responsible use of feed and medicines, environmental interactions, employee conditions and community engagement.

“ASC certified farms are considered the global elite in terms of performance,” said Anna Price, SSF’s aquaculture technical lead for ASC certification, in a press release.

“Gaining our first certification is the culmination of two years’ hard work, involving several different departments and functions.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t already farming to high standards; in every instance we were. However, there was still a considerable amount of work involved in evidencing and reworking our processes and procedures.”

A fish health check at one of the three Summer Isles farms which are now ASC-certified. Photo: SSF.
A fish health check at one of the three Summer Isles farms which are now ASC-certified. Photo: SSF.

94.2% survival

The three Summer Isles farms have a strong track record of fish health and welfare, with average survival of 94.2% across the last three cycles, an average harvest weight of 6kg, and 91.7% of all fish harvested graded “superior”.

The farms also received an “excellent” rating from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s CAS (compliance assessment scheme), which measures environmental performance, for the last two published years (2018 and 2019).

Vigilant husbandry

Farm manager Sarah Last, who was named Finfish Farm Manager of the Year at the Aquaculture Awards in 2018, said: “The last three crops have been record-breaking for us in terms of high fish survival and low lice levels, thanks to vigilant husbandry of both salmon and cleaner fish, so there hasn’t been an overhaul of our farming approach as such.

“Where ASC certification has been invaluable, however, is in highlighting ways in which we could hone some of our day-to-day activities even further; small changes which, when combined, could make a big difference.”

Knowledge and enthusiasm

Matthew James, senior aquaculture technical manager of LRQA Group, who carried out the audit, said: “We were impressed both by the high level of compliance achieved at a first audit, and the knowledge and enthusiasm throughout their farming team.”

Work is now underway to achieve chain of custody certification for the company’s processing and packing facility in Scalloway, Shetland. The next farm earmarked for certification is Lober Rock in Orkney.

Price said: “ASC certification is a win-win. It gives customers further reassurance, and it gives farmers a chance to see and draw from international best practice. Going for certification of more farms can only be a good thing for all.”