Cleaner fish such as this ballan wrasse are among the toolbox of measures being used against lice. Photo: Loch Duart.

SSPO calls for drop in lice enforcement trigger level

Scotland’s salmon farmers have called on the Scottish Government to tighten trigger level for the enforcement of measures against lice, “to keep momentum and results moving in the right direction”.

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Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), made the request to drop the enforcement trigger level from eight to six and the reporting threshold from three to two adult female lice in a letter to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.

The request includes a caveat that farmers are still allowed access to use of chemical lice treatments.

Grieg back on board

Hesketh-Laird also revealed in the letter that Grieg Seafood Shetland had re-joined the SSPO, meaning that it now speaks for all seven of Scotland’s salmon farming companies.

The chief executive said the industry and SSPO were looking closely at the recommendations of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s inquiry report on salmon farming, and that the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement remained firm.

She added: “We would urge that SEPA moves swiftly to bring forward its proposed regulatory changes trailed in its recent consultations to end the considerable operational uncertainty and regulatory constraints currently hampering progress.

“One area we urge the Scottish government to address as a priority is that of the lice levels that are currently used to initiate regulatory oversight on a farm-by-farm basis. The industry-wide approach to sea lice management of pursuing prevention over cure has made significant strides. Published SSPO data shows that industry‐wide sea lice levels on farms are broadly at their lowest since detailed reporting began in 2013.”

Members ready to move

Hesketh-Laird this was due partly to an integrated approach using “all the tools and techniques available”, and that clear regulatory thresholds for industry reporting had also played a part.

“Contingent on the availability of all the necessary measures and tools to prevent and treat lice infestations, including access to use of traditional medicines, we would urge Marine Scotland to tighten its action level for the enforcement of measures against sea lice, to help keep momentum and results moving in the right direction.

“SSPO members are ready to move to both a lower action level for reporting lice levels on farms and a tighter enforcement level. Specifically, we recommend Marine Scotland reduces the enforcement trigger level from eight to six and the reporting threshold from three to two adult, female lice. To maintain direction of travel, we recommend a further tightening of the enforcement trigger level to four from February 2020.”

Read the full text of the letter here.