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SSPO chief Scott Landsburgh. Photo: SSPO
SSPO chief Scott Landsburgh. Photo: SSPO

Scotland's salmon industry is to commission new research after questioning the decision of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to cut back on the use of sea louse treatment emamectin benzoate (SLICE) by 60 per cent.

The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO) will commission the independent research to "properly inform" the discussion about the potential impact of SLICE, following SEPA's decision which was made on the basis of a report by WRc, formerly the Water Research Centre and now an independent public limited company providing research and consultancy in water, waste and the environment.

 

Scott Landsburgh, SSPO chief executive, said: “Having reviewed the WRc report on the Environmental Quality Standard for emamectin benzoate, published by SEPA this week, and having taken expert opinion on this, SSPO believes that the report’s recommendations are exceptionally precautionary and that there is a need for further relevant data to ensure proper balance is maintained.

 

“With this in mind, SSPO will set about gathering additional environmental information and will commission further independent research designed to fill existing gaps in information. These things will proceed as a matter of urgency. We will keep SEPA fully advised of our plans and provide them with the results of the research once it is available.”

SEPA has effectively banned the use of SLICE for new applications and cut it by 60 per cent for existing sites.
SEPA has effectively banned the use of SLICE for new applications and cut it by 60 per cent for existing sites.

SEPA announced earlier this week that it is putting in place an interim regulatory position for new applications that limits residues in sediment of emamectin benzoate “to the extent that practically useable quantities are unlikely to be able to be authorised, unless effective mitigation measures are put in place to collect fish faeces and ensure the metabolites from the administration of the medicated feed are contained”.

Operators at existing sites are being asked to reduce their application of emamectin benzoate by 60 per cent.

'Bizarre situation'

SEPA's move followed a review by WRc, which was commissioned in August 2016 and delivered to SEPA in February this year but has not yet been subjected to independent peer review – nor have those with most experience of developing and using SLICE been permitted to submit data and other information in support of ongoing use prior to the report’s publication and SEPA’s new ruling.

Landsburgh said earlier this week: "This is a most bizarre situation. SEPA have published a report based on desk research on non-native species in freshwater, regardless of the fact that our salmon mature in marine water. Then they ask if anyone has any other information to contribute to their findings.

“No business can operate successfully in this sort of chaos. If the Scottish government and its agencies want to deter investment, put jobs and economic benefit in jeopardy this is certainly the right way to go about it. SEPA have introduced immediate regulatory changes with no consideration of the social and economic impact despite being legally required to do so.

“SLICE has been, and continues to be, a critically important tool within the industry’s strategy to protect the health and welfare of farmed salmon; a strategy strongly encouraged by Scottish government in its support for the ongoing sustainable development of this crucially important rural industry."