Mowi Scotland's Isle of Muck salmon farm. It is fairly easy to achieve social distancing on such sites, says the SSPO, but more difficult in processing plants. Photo: Mowi.

Salmon farming adapts to keep working through crisis

Scotland’s salmon farmers are changing how they work in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic which has led to a partial lockdown in the UK.

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“The critical focus is public health and protecting our workers as they continue to farm our salmon,” said Hamish Macdonell, strategic engagement director for the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO). “It is also important to maintain the supply of fresh salmon to UK consumers.”

Macdonell was responding to questions from Fish Farming Expert after Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the public must stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and will be fined if they don’t. Exceptions will be made for shopping for food, exercising once a day, attending to a medical need or travelling to and from work if it’s necessary and can’t be done from home.

Hamish Macdonell: Changes will be required in processing to maintain social distancing.

Social distancing

“All [salmon farming] companies are adapting their ways of working to ensure social distancing and that all workers who can work from home do so,” said Macdonell. 

“Everyone working on farms and throughout the supply chain is being provided with appropriate safety and hygiene protection and guidance. 

“While it is fairly easy to achieve social distancing on the farms, we recognise that it is more challenging in the processing stage and changes will be required.”  

Stay open

Macdonell said the SSPO was also recommending that companies draw up a full list of measures for everyone to adhere to. “This well help ensure that work premises are able to stay open,” he added.

Asked whether there might be problems transporting salmon to markets, he said: “Ferries are extremely busy with freight, so salmon farming companies are being advised to keep in close communication with the ferry companies to manage the transportation of fish and workers. 

“The guidance is being updated daily but the sector is working hard to safeguard their workers and to keep the supply of fresh salmon reaching consumers.”

Nation’s wellbeing

Any concerns that fish farmers or people providing on-site services to the industry might be restricted from visiting sites because of the stay-at-home rule were removed last night by UK health secretary Matt Hancock.

People can go to work if they cannot do their work at home, Hancock said, amid confusion over who was and wasn’t allowed to travel.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish Parliament that businesses essential to the wellbeing of the nation, such as those providing food supplies, should keep going.