Ben Hadfield, second from right, giving evidence at the REC Committee inquiry alongside, from left, Gael Force boss Stuart Graham, Grieg Shetland MD Grant Cumming, Scottish Salmon Company MD Craig Anderson and former Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation chief executive Scott Landsburgh.

Hadfield criticises impact of ‘conjecture and speculation’ on salmon inquiries

Mowi Scotland managing director Ben Hadfield has reiterated his dissatisfaction with the way last year’s Scottish Parliament inquiries into salmon farming were conducted.

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Hadfield has previously criticised the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s inquiry into the impact of salmon farming on the environment and the wider-ranging inquiry into the industry by the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee that followed it.

At Christmas he told Fish Farming Expert that some evidence submitted to the inquiries was “a coordinated all-out assault on our sector”, and that he was disappointed that “so many unsubstantiated opinions were allowed to detract from the veracity of the inquiry”.

And in an article in the March issue of Mowi Scotland’s employee newsletter, The Scoop, Hadfield’s frustration with the process remains evident.

Ben Hadfield reiterated his concerns about the inquiries to Mowi Scotland's 1,200 employees in The Scoop. Click on image to enlarge.

The managing director wrote: “Last year saw two government-led inquiries take place in response to some angling groups requesting a moratorium on our business. While I believe our sector has been vindicated by the inquiries’ conclusions – finding no evidence to support a moratorium, but rather a recommendation of responsible growth – I am concerned that some opinions stated at the hearings linger as fact.

“Bluntly put, evidentiary hearings should bear witness to proof and fact, not conjecture and speculation.

“This said, Mowi has publicly stated its support for the 65 recommendations made by the [REC] Committee. Some recommendations have already been acted on by our company (wrasse culture, sea lice reporting and wild fish sector collaboration, for example) and the Scottish Government’s Farmed Fish Health Framework has been embraced by the sector. We look forward to moving ahead with other recommendations such as improved data reporting, sensitive site relocations, and other recommendations that follow the general principle of ‘good growth’ supported by strong fish biologicals and community support.”

‘Putting the wealth back into Scotland’

In the article in The Scoop, Hadfield also said that 2018 was a year of strict cost control to match lower salmon harvest volumes and a dedication to improving biologicals, and that necessary and tough decisions had reset Mowi Scotland towards sustainability.

“Despite critical cost-cutting initiatives, key business improvement investments into Scotland of more than £200 million continued throughout the year. The money for these investments came from our own earnings but also a loan from our parent company – effectively putting the wealth back into Scotland and protecting our investment for the future.

“Our success is due to the hard work and contribution of our employees, and the way they apply their skills, experience and knowledge every day. This year will be our biggest year yet, with expected volumes of over 60,000 tonnes, so I look to all of us to continue down the course we have set to improving costs and fish biologicals.”