New report claims to expose poor welfare behind fish farming industry; Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation Responds
A report "Closed Waters" was launched this week by animal welfare organisations Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) that claims to expose "the poor welfare that is blighting the industry".
In a press release by CIWF, the organization describes global aquaculture industry as "growing at an alarming rate", noting that 40 per cent of the fish consumed worldwide is now farmed.
"In Britain 35 million Atlantic salmon and 40 million rainbow trout are farmed every year, making aquaculture Britain’s second largest livestock sector after chickens. And like chickens, intensively farmed fish are often more susceptible to disease and are kept in cramped conditions which inhibit natural behaviors", the press release claims, adding that salmon that in the wild swim up to 30km a day are "packed into densely stocked cages. Sex reversal is often used in trout farming to produce all-female stocks as females can be grown to greater weights".
“It’s only a matter of time before more fish are farmed than caught at sea,” says author of Closed Waters and CIWF’s Chief Policy Advisor Peter Stevenson.
“This is a recipe for environmental disaster. Fish farms have been heralded as the viable alternative to manage our depleting seas yet in fact threaten wild populations and sustainability. Farmed carnivorous species need fish in their diet. It takes 2-3 tonnes of wild fish to produce one tonne of farmed fish.
“World aquaculture has developed into a huge, rapidly expanding industry focused on maximising output and profit. The economic benefits of increasing production outweigh the economic losses of
malformations and other diseases. In this climate, the fate of individual fish is of little concern.”
Whilst CIWF and WSPA recognise that in Britain some progress in tackling welfare problems has been made nonetheless, both in Britain and elsewhere, the serious welfare concerns involved in intensive fish farming need to be addressed urgently to prevent further widespread suffering.
“In a report five years ago we called for action to bring about changes to this rapidly growing fish farming industry. Today’s report reiterates the pressing need to control fish farming before its too late,” concludes Stevenson.
Dr. John Webster, Technical Director of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation Responds
Responding to the publication Dr. John Webster, Technical Director of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, said: “The CIWF and WSPA appear to be deliberately ignoring the advances made within the Scottish industry in an attempt to mislead the general public about the welfare of farmed fish.
“There has been a vast amount of research and development on fish health and welfare issues over the past 20 years. In Scotland, this includes work funded by the industry, SEERAD, Fisheries Research Services, DEFRA, academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies, the European Commission and others.
“The industry also works proactively with many constructive and cooperative welfare groups to improve the health and welfare of farmed fish, such as RSPCA Freedom Food and SSPCA, which give rise to ongoing benefits for all concerned. Yet much of what CIWF and the WSPA have to say is often deliberately sensational and misleading,” he added.
Andrew Grant, an independent veterinary consultant to the aquaculture industry, added: “The welfare of farmed fish was identified as a priority for action in the Scottish Executive led Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture.
“A welfare sub-group of the Aquaculture Joint Health Working Group was set up to inform welfare and husbandry practices in the Code of Good Practice for Finfish Aquaculture (CoGP), which was then published in 2003.
“The welfare sub-group was made up of stakeholder interests covering animal welfare, industry, scientists, veterinarians and government. The sub-group drew on recommendations of the Farmed Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) report (1996).
“The CoGP adopts the well recognised welfare principles quoted by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. Compliance with the CoGP is independently audited and all compliant farms have access to veterinary services and are required to have a veterinary health plan.
“This latest report from CIWF and WSPA revisits many old issues, all of which are referred to in the CoGP, and which have been subjective to investigation and remedial action where appropriate.
“The industry always seeks to continually improve standards of fish health and welfare by careful research and effective action. There have been many examples of fruitful cooperation with reputable and responsible animal welfare organisations,” he added.
A senior aquaculture veterinarian also noted: “I am disappointed as this report doesn’t appear to recognise the advances that have been made in fish farming in Scotland.
“The industry needs to be applauded for its efforts in encouraging farming as an alternative method of supplying fish as a high quality, highly nutritious food in these days of diminishing wild stocks.
“The veterinary profession associated with fish farming is very pro-active with respect to the welfare situation at a number of different levels, including commissioning work, advising European regulators and overall supervision of the industry.”
Sid Patten, chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, added: “Those who perpetuate ill-informed criticism of the aquaculture industry should stop to think about the potential social impacts of their campaigning, as it could potentially damage livelihoods in the remote, rural communities that are dependent on fish farming.”
Closed Waters: The welfare of farmed Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Atlantic Cod and Atlantic Halibut is available on-line at http://www.ciwf.org/publications/fish.html