Two giant Norwegian salmon companies which own all the salmon farms south-west of the Mainland are to be freed of restrictions relating to the outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia in 2009.
Scottish Sea Farms and Grieg Seafood Hjaltland have been subject to surveillance and controls on movement of fish in the area of their 14 farm sites between Skeld, Weisdale and Burra.
Last year they became the only two operators in what has been Shetland’s most-intensively farmed area after Hjaltland bought up the local farms of Skelda Salmon and G Duncan.
Since the ISA outbreak, which affected six sites, the farmers have agreed to restrict farming to a single year class of salmon across all the sites, helping minimise the threat of problems such as disease and sea lice infestation.
One generation of salmon has since been harvested from the zone and all 14 sites have now been restocked again. They will be fallowed after the fish are harvested late next year and early in 2014.
Announcing the end of restrictions, Scottish environment minister Stewart Stevenson welcomed it as “good news” for the reputation of Scotland’s aquaculture industry.
“Scotland is now recognised as being free of ISA. This makes a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Scottish salmon aquaculture industry and helps maintain the high health status of Scotland’s farmed fish.”
He warned that the industry and government needed to remain vigilant to try to ensure no repeat of the outbreak.
The companies affected by ISA received substantial EU grant support to ease the multi-million pound losses incurred in harvesting salmon early, selling it cheaply and restocking their farms.
Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation chief executive Scott Landsburgh also welcomed the ending of ISA restrictions and praised the government. He said: “The Scottish government’s pragmatic approach to handling the issue and working with the industry has been an excellent example of timely, efficient collaboration.”