The BBC's Panorama programme focused on Scottish salmon farming. Image: BBC.

Mowi confirms biomass breaches after ‘critic-led’ documentary

Mowi Scotland today confirmed accusations made in a BBC Panorama documentary last night that it had breached biomass licence conditions at its farms “46 times over the last decade”.

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But it also pointed out: “There were 8,151 reports or audits submitted during that period (99.5% compliance). We recognise that any breach of our licence conditions is one too many, but our compliance record continues to improve and in the rare instances that a breach has taken place, we take full responsibility for it and create an immediate correction plan.”

All of the information is publicly available on the Marine Scotland website.

Incorrect estimations

Mowi said biomass breaches may occur if weight estimations are incorrect or if harvest is delayed for any reason, such as by bad weather or requirements to harvest other sites, although one anonymous witness on Panorama claimed that on certain sites the company had overstepped its limit by more than 700 tonnes.

Talking about the documentary, titled Salmon Farming Exposed, a Mowi spokesperson said: “It continues to disappoint us that the BBC’s audience – most of whom are far removed from the Scottish Highlands – are introduced to salmon farming through the lens of the BBC which seems to be led by the narrative of a few critics of our business.

“The thousands of hard-working men and woman who grow the UK’s favourite seafood and highest-valued food export deserve a better and more balanced representation from our country’s public broadcaster.

“We are certainly not beyond criticism and have never professed to be perfect but deserve to have a fair opportunity to communicate our responses to the challenges we face growing fish, and how growing salmon provides massive benefits for human health and Scotland’s rural communities.”

Sensationalising farming

Mowi’s response follows a statement criticising the BBC by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), which said publicity for the programme appeared to “sensationalise the operations of a farming sector raising live animals day to day in natural surroundings and the routine dealings with the regulator that all farmers, regardless of stock, are subject to”.

The SSPO said it had fully cooperated with the team making the documentary, giving them access to the SSPO’s chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird. “During those discussions and subsequent filmed interview, no specific allegations in respect to any SSPO member company were made,” stated the SSPO.

Corin Smith: No mention of his role for the S&TC. Image: BBC.


Last night’s programme featured salmon farming critic Corin Smith, who was described as a wildlife photographer whose love for wild fishing led to his interest in salmon farming.

At no point was it mentioned that Smith is consultant for communications for Salmon and Trout Conservation (S&TC), a campaigning charity which blames salmon farming for putting wild salmon and trout at risk and wants all salmon farming on land.

Although Smith’s appointment to the S&TC ranks is a recent one, it occurred before the Panorama programme finished production, and would have been a simple fact for the BBC to find out.

Announced role

Smith announced his new role on his Facebook page – Corin Smith – Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots – on May 9 and he is listed on the Meet the Team page of S&TC’s website, where he states: “My key responsibilities are to grow the public profile of S&TC and to ensure we receive media coverage commensurate with the scale and urgency of the problems we are tackling.”

A spokesperson for the BBC said Smith had been listed as a “campaigner” on screen.

The programme featured footage that Smith filmed of lice-damaged fish at the Scottish Salmon Company’s Vacasay farm on Lewis last year, along with lice-covered wild fish on a nearby river, and speculated whether the two incidents were linked.

It also visited Norway to report on that country’s development licence incentive system for new growing systems such as semi-closed containment and asked why the same thing wasn’t happening in Scotland.

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer.