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Salmon processing. (Photo: SSPO)

US rule may lead to Scottish salmon export loss

Click on the flag for more information about United Kingdom UNITED KINGDOM
Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 03:20 (GMT + 9)

A new United States’ rule could strongly hit Scotland’s salmon farming industry by risking exports to that country for a value of about GBP 200 million.

This warning is due to the fact that new official figures have revealed that salmon farms continue killing seals and the American legislation requests that the seafood products entering the American market "must not be associated with a fishery in which intentional killing or serious injury of a marine mammal is allowed.”

According to the released figures, fish farms in Scotland have been shooting seven or eight seals a month this year, despite the industry’s promise to cut the killing to zero, The Sunday Herald reported.

The British newspaper also released the fishing firms engaged in the accusation in the first three months of 2016.

According to this report, ten seals were shot by Scottish Sea Farms in Shetland, Orkney, Ross-shire and Argyll; Marine Harvest shot six seals in Skye, Ross-shire and Argyll, and another four were shot by Loch Duart Limited in the Sound of Harris. Three other companies shot one seal each: Scottish Salmon Company, Wester Ross Fisheries and Balta Island Seafare.

In their defense, representatives of the fishing sector explained that seals are killed to prevent them from eating fish and they also used to be shot by wild salmon netters, but their fishing rights have been curbed by new government conservation regulations.

Given this issue, the Sunday Herald has launched a campaign to stop the slaughter of seals, based on a scientific study showing that hundreds of seals had been shot since 2011 when they were pregnant or feeding young, leaving pups to starve to death.

Now, a new legislative rule agreed by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last month will prohibit the import of any fish that does not meet US standards. Therefore, it is illegal to intentionally kill or injure seals in any commercial US fishing operation.

“This rule requires harvesting nations to demonstrate that they prohibit the intentional mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations,” pointed out John Henderschedt, director of NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection.

Countries must have “procedures to reliably certify that exports of fish and fish products to the United States are not associated with a fishery in which intentional killing or serious injury of a marine mammal is allowed,” he added.

“The rule establishes a five-year exemption period to allow foreign harvesting nations time to develop, as appropriate, regulatory programs comparable in effectiveness to US programs. NOAA does not prejudge any nation's or fisheries' current measures or ability to comply to this rule.”

In this conext, campaigners are calling for fish farms to use non-lethal methods of controlling seals, such as anti-predator nets.

“Scotland's trigger-happy salmon farmers have not slowed down at all on their seal-killing spree during 2016,” said Don Staniford, from the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture.

“These damning figures blow out of the water the industry's claim of 'getting to zero'. Scottish salmon farmers could get to zero in a flash – simply stop shooting seals and start installing predator nets,” Staniford stated.

On the other hand, John Robins of Save Our Seals Fund pointed out that seal shooting was self-reported by the industry without any independent monitoring.

Given these accusations, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, which represents the fish farming industry, reiterated its intention to reduce the number of seals shot to zero.

“The Scottish salmon farming industry is acutely aware of its responsibility to both its fish welfare and the welfare of marine mammals which live alongside farms,” said chief executive, Scott Landsburgh.

Referring to the new US fish import rule, Landsburgh stated: “Farmers act under licence in line with Scottish legislation and it is our expectation that this will align with the proposed US requirements.”

Statistyics from the Global Alliance against Industrial Aquaculture state that the US is the largest market for Scottish farmed salmon exports, with 30,000 tonnes sent to that market in 2015 for a total exceeding GBP 200 million. 


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