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Scottish salmon sector invites auditors to check fish health and welfare, at any time, without advance notice. Farmers are so confident that all sites are adhering to the high standards of the RSPCA Assured animal welfare programme that they are prepared to open their farms at any time to inspectors from RSPCA Assured, the respected accreditation body.

A number of farms were the subject of unfounded allegations of welfare breaches earlier this week by a campaigning group using footage supplied by anti-fish farm activists.

Six farms were criticised in the report published by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

At least one of the claims about Scotland’s salmon farms in that report was wrong while others were exaggerated and distorted.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), the trade body for the Scottish salmon sector, announced today (Thurs March 25th) that official auditors would be invited to come to any farm, at any time.

Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of the SSPO, said:

“We take all allegations about breaches of fish welfare extremely seriously which is why we are taking this step.

“We are also adamant that there is no substance to any of these claims. That is why we are inviting auditors from RSPCA Assured to come to our farms.

“We are so confident that our farmers maintain exemplary standards of fish health and welfare that they can come at any time to check.”

Scottish salmon farms are routinely visited by RSPCA Assured for audits, to make sure they have exemplary welfare standards.

Mr Scott added:

“We respect the role that RSPCA Assured plays in keeping our standards high. However, there are some people and groups out there who just want to dismantle the Scottish salmon farming sector and they will make claims, however unfounded, to try to achieve their aims.”

The SSPO issued a statement in response to the CIWF report published earlier this week:

Ronnie Soutar, Head of Veterinary Services at Scottish Sea Farms and a long-standing fish vet, said:

“No-one wants to see any fish potentially suffering but thankfully, those occasions are rare. By selectively publicising those very few images, CIWF are being hugely misleading. Those pictures do not reflect my experience of the extraordinarily high standards Scotland’s fish farmers are setting.”

Tavish Scott, CEO of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said:

“There are key parts of this report which are wrong, inaccurate and misleading – claims we would have pointed out to CIWF, had they approached anybody in the Scottish salmon farming sector before publishing it.

“Salmon farming one of the country’s greatest environmental and economic success stories. The Scottish salmon sector has built itself up from a small crofting side-line to the UK’s biggest food export in just 50 years, in doing so it has created thousands of well-paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile rural areas and is producing a protein with one of the lowest carbon footprints around.

“We are extremely proud of the support given to us by consumers, global fish-welfare accreditation bodies and governments – all of whom appreciate the healthy, nutritious and sustainable food we produce.”

Farms belonging to Mowi, Scottish Sea Farms, The Scottish Salmon Company, Cooke Aquaculture and Grieg Seafood were criticised in the CIWF report.

Scottish salmon is the country’s biggest food export and provides direct employment for 2,500 people and supports at least 10,000 jobs in the processing and supply chain.