Loch Duart fish health manager Beth Osborne, left, and WSFT's senior fisheries biologist Dr Shona Marshall helping to carry out a net sweep for sea trout. The primary goal is to count sea lice on the fish.

Loch Duart renews fisheries trust auditing agreement for three more years

Move ‘ensures continued transparency in fish health data reporting’


Salmon farmer Loch Duart will continue working with the West Sutherland Fisheries Trust (WSFT) as an independent monitor and auditor of its fish health data for another three years, it announced today.

The company, which farms in Sutherland and the Hebrides, said its working relationship with WSFT stretches back to 1999, the year Loch Duart was founded. The verification partnership, which began in 2021, grants WSFT unprecedented access to Loch Duart's sites, which the company says ensures continued transparency in fish health data reporting.

WSFT is an independent charity established in 1996. Based in Northwest Scotland, it monitors wild fish populations and advises on the management of rivers and lochs in the area. WSFT biologists visit four different Loch Duart farm sites each month to independently audit weekly fish health checks, including sea lice counts and environmental and biological conditions.

166 audits

The Trust has visited Loch Duart sites 166 times to carry out audits since the auditing programme started in June 2021.

“There’s absolutely no point in hiding health problems… why wouldn’t we want to be transparent,” Loch Duart fish health manager Beth Osborne said in a press release.

“We’ve been health checking all the pens with the West Sutherland Fisheries Trust, doing lice counts, gill scores, and taking gill swabs. WSFT audits the health checks, making sure that what we report is what’s actually here. This is a unique partnership and one that both Loch Duart and the West Sutherland Fisheries Trust are proud of. We encourage others in the sector to look at what we’ve been doing and consider similar partnerships.

“It’s important that Loch Duart works with the Trust because it gives us transparency of our data as a whole, both from the wild stocks as well as the fish farm. It helps the local environment, the local people, and all of the local stakeholders. If everything’s healthy in the area and we’ve shared as much information as possible, then everybody benefits.”

A river sweep being carried out by the WSFT with help from Loch Duart.

Unparalleled access

Dr Shona Marshall, senior fisheries biologist for the WSFT, said the first three years of auditing sea lice counts had been successful, and the Trust was pleased to extend its partnership with Scourie-based Loch Duart.

“Working closely with Loch Duart has given us a good understanding of the farm practices, their issues, and solutions. The care shown by the staff towards their fish and their willingness to discuss issues for both farmed and wild fish in an open manner is welcomed. I’m not aware of any other Trust that has the access I have here.”

Loch Duart supports WSFT by providing people to help with net sweeps for wild fish, and by giving training in sea lice and gill health identification for wild fish. The company and WSFT also work together to form an environmental management plan supporting the local area.

Loch Duart also supported the WSFT's 2018 sea trout tracking project.

The fish farmer produces around 6,000 gutted weight tonnes of salmon annually but is in the process of expanding to sites in Skye that it bought from Scottish Sea Farms. The five new sites will potentially enable Loch Duart to double its output.