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Marine / Salmon industry stops using acoustic deterrents which could harm wildlife

Seals seen in a salmon cage after forcing their way in through the bird protection netting. Photo: SSPO

THE SCOTTISH salmon farming industry is calling on the Scottish Government as well as the US authorities for guidance after announcing that it is no longer using potentially harmful acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) to deter marine mammals such as seals from entering pens.

The move comes just one month after Scottish salmon farmers were barred from shooting seals as a last resort to protect their livestock.

The industry has since called on the Scottish Government to consider compensation for fish lost in seal attacks in line with similar schemes for terrestrial farmers losing livestock to predators.

Around half a million salmon were killed in seal predation in 2020, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation said.

Meanwhile, the Shetland branch of salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms has been criticised by Marine Scotland for not sticking for the rules of reporting the shooting of seals under licence.

In response Scottish Sea Farms said they had reported the shooting within the 48 hours required but had not logged it on Marine Scotland’s online reporting system.

The changes in the law as well as the industry’s new approach to acoustic deterrent devices stem from changes to the United States’ wildlife laws, which effectively shuts off one of the salmon farming sector’s largest markets unless seal shooting is stopped.

The phasing out of ADDs follows the same line of argument.

The SSPO said its members had a moral and legal responsibility to protect their fish.

However, in order to comply with European Protected Species Directive as well as the US Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA), Scottish salmon producers will only use ADDs in future where they comply with both Marine Scotland and US MMPA requirements.

SSPO director of sustainability Anne Anderson said: “Scottish salmon farmers are not using any acoustic deterrent devices that may have been considered to endanger cetaceans such as dolphins, porpoises and whales.

“All devices the sector does not have total confidence in, with regards to the harming of protected species, have been turned off and removed from the marine environment.

“It is critical however that farmers have deterrents available to protect their livestock from seal predation.

“We call on Marine Scotland to work with the sector to develop a science-led approach which enables the use of deterrent devices and supports research and innovation in this area to ensure that farmers can continue to deploy these tools, which play a useful role in managing seal predation and improving animal welfare.”

The industry said it recognises and welcomes the value of further research to refine and enhance acoustic devices that can protect farmed fish without disruption to other species.

This has included working with several academic institutions to develop the science in this field.