The Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) has launched an online parliamentary petition calling for statutory tighter regulation of salmon farms on the west coast.

The petition – Protecting wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms – urges the Scottish government to strengthen marine farm controls to protect wild salmon and trout.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of S&TCS, said: ‘The Scottish government’s lack of regulation has clearly been a major contributory factor in the industry’s failure to keep sea lice numbers below acceptable levels.

‘Our analysis shows that, between 2013 and 2015, the number of fish farming regions failing to keep adult female sea lice numbers below the industry’s voluntary Code of Good Practice threshold has been on an upward trend.

‘Indeed the industry wide problem with sea lice appears to be increasing and is certainly not under control.’

S&TCS suggests that an ‘upper-tier’ sea lice threshold should be introduced, above which an immediate cull or harvest of farmed fish is mandated.

‘It should no longer be possible for fish farmers, where sea lice numbers have effectively gone out of control on their farms, to assert that they remain in compliance with the CoGP (Code of Good Practice), as they currently can,’ said the group.

‘S&TCS also believes that the Scottish government should now accept that wild fish are not sufficiently protected in domestic law and should amend legislation with the express purpose of protecting wild fish from potential damage caused by fish farms, with inspectors given a legal duty to control sea lice on fish farms, again expressly in order to protect wild fish populations.

‘This can be achieved by amending  the 2007 Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act to give the Fish Health Inspectorate a  statutory duty to inspect and otherwise enforce sea lice control on marine cage fish farms for the express purpose of protecting wild salmonid fish from juvenile sea lice infestation from marine cage fish farms, and provide the FHI with statutory powers to order immediate culls and/or early harvest of any marine cage fish farm where average adult female sea lice numbers of farmed fish remain persistently above CoGP thresholds.

‘Over the medium term, S&TCS considers that those farms consistently failing to control sea lice should be considered for closure and/or relocation.

‘The Scottish government must now return to that process and move the worst performing farms away from salmonid rivers and migration routes.

‘Finally, S&TCS believes the evidence supports the need for a renewed focus on moving to full closed containment of farmed salmon production in Scotland, with complete ‘biological separation’ of wild and farmed fish.’