Don Staniford films himself in a kayak during a visit to a Scottish Sea Farms site earlier this year, at a time before he gave a commitment to a court to stay off the company's pens and other property.

Anti-salmon farming activist bids to overturn court’s ‘stay away’ order


Anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford will attempt to overturn a court ban on his covert visits to Mowi Scotland’s fish farms at an appeal hearing next year.

Fish Farming Expert understands that a one-day hearing will be held by the Sheriff Appeal Court in Parliament House, Edinburgh, on February 1, 2024, following a procedural hearing that was held via video earlier this week.

Mowi, Scotland’s biggest salmon farmer, was granted an interdict (injunction) against Staniford at a hearing at Oban Sheriff Court earlier this year. The interdict orders Staniford to stay at least 15 metres away from Mowi’s marine sites and to keep out of its shore bases.

Salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms has applied to the Oban court for a near-identical interdict against Staniford, and the activist has passed Fish Farming Expert a copy of an initial writ sent to him by lawyers representing another salmon farmer, Bakkafrost Scotland.

Extended interdict

The writ asks North Strathclyde Sheriffdom for an extended interdict against Staniford, who Bakkafrost Scotland says has visited its sites “uninvited and without permission” since at least 2018.

Staniford has given an undertaking to Oban Sheriff Court that he will stay off SFF’s fish pens and out of its shore bases while the company’s case is active, and Bakkafrost’s writ points out that because Staniford can no longer visit Mowi or SSF farms, it “has a reasonable apprehension” that he will focus his attention on its sites.

Talks are believed to be still ongoing between lawyers representing Bakkafrost Scotland and Staniford.

Kayaked to pens

Staniford has frequently kayaked to pens, often early in the morning before farm staff arrive, so that he can climb on to the walkway, lift bird netting, and use a GoPro camera on a pole to film moribund fish close to the surface. He uses the images on his own website and social media channels and passes them on to other anti-salmon farming groups.

On other occasions he has opened mort bins in shore bases and filmed inside, and at other times he or an associate have used a drone to film farm activities.

Mowi, SSF, and Bakkafrost all contend that Staniford’s activities pose a safety risk to himself and their staff, and are also a biosecurity risk to fish.

Harassment and intimidation

When Mowi first applied for an interdict, Mowi Scotland chief operating officer Ben Hadfield said in a press release that Staniford’s behaviour and actions over the preceding two years caused great concern and were not something that his staff should have to endure while going about their daily work.

“Everyone should be able to go to work and expect their workplace to be free of harassment and intimidation,” said Hadfield.

The press release cited a 2012 court case in Canada in which Mainstream Canada, an indirect subsidiary of salmon farmer Cermaq, attempted to sue Staniford for defamation.

In her written judgement, the Honourable Madam Justice Adair pointed to Staniford mocking the physical appearance of three woman who provided testimony and described Mr Staniford as “akin to a zealot” who will “twist facts to conform to his own personal view”.

Ensuring safety

Hadfield said in the press release that while Staniford’s behaviour and “complete lack of respect toward our employees” were deeply concerning, the basis for Mowi Scotland’s court proceedings was to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees, its fish and Staniford and his associates.

He added: “Our business also receives much oversight from licensed professionals, government regulators and third-party auditors, and therefore does not require the services of self-appointed individuals.”

Staniford argues that the companies are trying to hide what he says are the realities of the sector and regards interdicts as SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation). But unlike SLAPPs, Mowi’s interdict and Staniford’s undertaking not to visit SSF pens do not prevent him from publishing videos and making accusations against the sector, which he continues to do.

“Establishing no-go zones around salmon farms – including land bases – is a dangerous precedent that erodes public accountability and transparency,” he has said previously.