SHETLAND’S largest salmon producer has said the 1.1 million smolts it imported from Norway were of a much better quality than any it could have bought in Scotland.
Grieg Seafood Hjaltland (UK), a subsidiary of the Norwegian Grieg Seafood group, also said it was “not bothered” by the actions of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Group (SSPO).
The company was expelled from the lobbying group after importing the juvenile fish without a three-month quarantine, thereby breaching the industry’s voluntary code of practice.
On Wednesday, Hjaltland’s managing director Sigurd Pettersen claimed the code of practice undermined free trade.
“We are not bothered by this at all. They have decided that we have breached one of the points in the code of practice, which we have.
“But we think that specific clause is contravening Scottish law, Norwegian law and EU legislation. The main thing is that we have done nothing illegal,” he said.
He confirmed that the company had made the decision to import the juvenile fish because of delays in completing its Shetland based hatchery, currently being built at Girlsta.
Pettersen said: “We are the party most interested in not bringing in any diseases. The fish we have brought in have a much better health status than those we have been offered in Scotland.
“Our internal requirements for fish health are much stronger than the voluntary demands of the code of good practice.”
SSPO chief executive Scott Landsburgh said the organisation had no choice but to expel the company.
“The potential consequences of bringing in smolts without quarantine are exceptionally serious for the whole Scottish industry.
“In expressing their grave concerns about the company’s plans, other members of SSPO went to extraordinary lengths to help Hjaltland source smolts from Scotland. These offers were rejected.”
Pettersen said the company’s new hatchery would be completed by mid October but would be able to take in the first batch of eggs as early as June this year so it will have as many as two million smolts available in spring of 2015.
By 2016 production should have increased to five million a year to supply all of the company’s Shetland based farms.
He said the initial plan to have the £4 million facility completed by summer of last year had been “seriously overoptimistic”.
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