In Norway, salmon farming accounts for over 38% of the value of the
country’s seafood exports. 3000 people
are directly employed on salmon farms in Norway, and the official estimate of other jobs supported by the
industry is a further 17 000. In Scotland, salmon farming now directly employs around 1500 people in
remote rural areas, and some 6500 more in associated processing industries.
However, over the
same period, stocks of wild Atlantic salmon have declined by more than 50%,
with a worldwide catch of less than 10,000t in 2004. In addition there have
been more localised declines of sea trout (the migratory form of brown
trout), particularly on the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Wild salmon and
sea trout are widely regarded as the indicator of a healthy ecosystem
throughout the North Atlantic and themselves support valuable rod fisheries and tourist attractions
in remote rural areas, with a socio-economic value similar to salmon farming.
The huge imbalance
between the numbers of farmed salmon penned in coastal areas compared to wild
populations has caused problems when large numbers of farmed fish have
escaped, and when parasite levels on farmed fish have provided a reservoir of
infection for migrating smolts.
paper sets out what
the EAA believes should be done to address these two problems and minimise
their impact on wild fish..
However , we stress at the outset that EAA
and other mainstream NGOs support a sustainable salmon farming industry,
provided it is properly regulated and operated in a transparent way,
accountable to all stakeholders and not just company shareholders.
Pressures on the life cycle of wild salmon
It is important to emphasize that wild
Atlantic salmon have a complicated life cycle and the decline in their
numbers can be attributed to a variety of causes:
- pressures on their spawning habitat in
freshwater from excessive water abstraction and intensive agriculture
leading to siltation and eutrophication
- declines in freshwater survival due to acid
rain and predation by fish eating birds
- prevention of upstream and downstream
migration by hydro-electric schemes
- the impact of sea lice of fish farm origin
on migrating smolts
- poor survival in the marine environment,
probably due to climate change affecting sea surface temperatures and
- mixed stock fishing by commercial fishermen
in coastal waters and predation by seals
Impacts of salmon
farming are thus just one pressure on wild salmon, but it clearly makes sense to address those impacts, like
salmon farming, which can be managed. Similarly, overfishing at sea has
already been controlled by international agreement. Significant investment in
habitat improvement coupled with reforms of agricultural and forestry practice are taking place, and anglers are playing their
part to reduce exploitation with increasing adoption of catch and release.
these programmes are co-ordinated by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation
Organisation (NASCO), an inter-governmental treaty organisation dedicated to
the conservation of this iconic species. Among many other achievements NASCO
has already implemented its Williamsburg Resolution (2002) which is aimed at
minimising the impact of salmon farming on wild fish, and has an ongoing
dialogue on progress with both member governments and the International
Salmon Farming Association.
The EAA at NASCO
The EAA is an accredited
non-governmental observer (NGO) at NASCO. The NASCO governments have been
criticized for lack of action in implementing NASCO guidelines, and this
briefing paper sets out the position of EAA on three key issues:
sustainability of feed, the impact of farm escapes and the impact of
parasites and disease.
Sustainability of feed
The farming of piscivorous
fish accounts for the use of 53% of the global supply of fish meal and 87% of
the global supply of marine fish oil. However, use in the future for this
purpose is likely to fall - Tacon (2004) estimates
use by 2010 to fall from an inclusion level of 25%-30% to only 8% inclusion
in salmon feeds as a result of substitution with vegetable oils.
“Industrial fisheries” fulfil current
aquaculture feed demand for these products, the principle ones being: Peruvian anchovy (6.2 million tonnes in 2003), followed by blue whiting (2.4 million tonnes) and Japanese anchovy (2.1 million tonnes). Total landings of industrial or feed fish have
remained fairly stable at around 20 to 25 million tonnes
per year since 1984 (IFFO 2004), except in El Niño years.
- This abstraction of vast quantities of fish
from the marine food chain has an inevitable knock-on effect on a wide
range of predatory fish species.
- Organic fish farming standards require a
substantial proportion of the fish protein and oil used in the
manufacture of organic feed to come from ‘sustainable sources’. Since no
industrial fisheries have yet received globally-recognised certification
as sustainable, a proportion of the fish required for organic feed is
currently supplied by the processing sector, as a by-product of
preparation of commercial species for human consumption. At present
around 4 million tonnes per year of such ‘trimmings’ are used as
- While the salmon farming industry and feed
companies are working to reduce the proportion of fish meal and fish oil
in aquaculture feeds, the EAA calls on the EU, Member States and
international organisations such as NASCO to continue to press for
maximum possible reduction in dependence on the use of “industrial fish”
in the manufacture of feeds.
Parasites - sea lice
- There is now ample evidence that the
production of juvenile lice (Lepeoptheirius salmonis)
on farmed salmon impacts adversely on wild fish if infective pressure is
allowed to rise above a level which would cause infection of 10 or more
lice per fish on wild smolts.
- In relation to sea lice management, we
believe that national regulation is necessary, to ensure that each fish
farming company manages lice levels on farms in keeping with target
levels which will minimise impact on wild salmonids.
- This should include a target level of zero ovigerous lice during the ‘critical period’ for
salmon smolt runs, and minimal levels of ovigerous lice over the period during which wild sea
trout are likely to be in coastal waters.
- The EAA calls for increasing transparency in
in relation to publication of information on typical farm lice levels,
on a seasonal and management area basis.
Management and control measures for parasites and diseases
- The EAA welcomes the progress towards
establishment of Area and Bay management agreements as a means of
improving the management and control of parasite levels. We will
continue to support and encourage constructive dialogue between
government, fish farming industry and wild fish interests.
EAA supports the calls of the salmon farming sector for better
management of the authorisation process for veterinary medicines within
the EU, to improve the availability of medicines used in EEA countries
and facilitate better control of lice levels on farms, with rotation of
active agents to minimise the danger of development of resistance to
medicines used for sea lice treatment.
welcomes the fact that the salmon farming industry in the UK
places high priority on control of disease. While there appears to be no
evidence that incidence of disease on farms is indicative of the
likelihood of spread of disease to wild fish, we urge the industry to
continue its efforts to minimise spread of disease among farmed fish by
rigorous control of fish movements, and by use of vaccination and other
health care programmes.
EAA calls on the EC to ensure that Member States are allowed to put in
place the levels of fish health protection deemed necessary by
individual governments, in relation to the international trade in live salmonid genetic material (ova and live fish). This
is especially important in relation to diseases such as ISA which are
not endemic in EU countries, and to parasites such as Gyrodactylus salaris
which would pose a significant threat to salmonids
stocks in the UK
if imported. It is crucial to note that all existing country-to-country
transfer of G. salaris
appears to have been via trade in live fish.
is substantial evidence that escapes of farmed salmonids
remain at unacceptably high levels. There is also a growing body of
evidence pointing to the irreversible adverse effects of hybridisation
between farmed and wild salmonids – up to and
including potential extinction of wild stocks. The salmon farming
industry is resistant to the idea of using sterile fish; in any case,
sterile escapees would still compete with wild fish for food and
habitat. Escapees have also been shown to be a significant vector for
the spread of sea lice infestation. EAA accepts that the industry has
made efforts to improve containment, and that events
such as exceptionally severe storms and other acts of God are likely to
continue to cause occasional, catastrophic escape events. However, the
EAA urges the EU to put in place a Community-wide containment policy for
aquaculture based on NASCO guidelines– both freshwater and marine –
which will make it incumbent upon Member States to regulate for better
Ø The EAA supports, in general, Norway’s NYTEK initiative, which will see all fish farm cages brought
up to a minimum standard based on NS9415 by 2012.
Ø The EAA also calls for Member States to introduce exemplary
penalties for allowing fish farm escapes through negligence.
Ø The EAA also calls for further work on tagging techniques which
cause the least possible stress to the fish, do not place an impossibly high
financial burden on the industry, but will serve to establish the ownership
of escaped fish, with a view to implementation of the policy that “the
polluter pays” in relation to damage caused to wild stocks by escaped farmed
Contacts: Jan Kappel, EAA Secretary
General +32 (0)2 286 5956
Poupard (EAA), NASCO NGO Group Chair. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors:
1. The European Anglers Alliance
(EAA) is an alliance of the national governing bodies for angling in 18
European Countries. Formed in 1994, the EAA represents Europe’s 25
For further information: www.eaa-europe.org
2. The North Atlantic Salmon
Conservation Organisation (NASCO) is an inter-governmental treaty
organisation with headquarters in Edinburgh
formed in 1984. The signatories are: Canada, Denmark in
respect of the Faroe
Islands and Greenland, European
Union, Iceland, Norway, Russia and USA.
For further information www.nasco.int