Five fish farm companies operating in the zone hit by infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) are to coordinate their fish-growing from now on in a bid to rid the area of its disease and sea lice problems.
The main consequence of signing an area management agreement for the south-west of Shetland will be an end to the growing of different generations of fish in the zone, which has the most densely farmed waters around Shetland. In the wake of the ISA virus being discovered earlier this year the zone is being cleared of salmon as it reaches marketable size in readiness for a period when all sites will be left fallow to recover and become free of parasites. Then, around March next year, smolts will be put to sea and all farms in the area will grow only that single 2010 year-class of fish.
The management agreement, which has become a common practice in recent years in the industry, involves Shetland’s two biggest salmon farmers Hjaltland Seafarms and Scottish Sea Farms along with Skelda Salmon, organic sea trout farmers QA Fish and the Shetland Fisheries Centre in Scalloway. The companies will work closer together on all aspects of fish farming to improve the health and welfare of their fish and the environment. There are 40 registered fish farm sites in the area although most are not used these days.
Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK managing director Michael Stark said his company and Scottish Sea Farms had agreed to acquire other fish farm operators in the area in recent years with a view to improving biosecurity. From there talks had begun on a management agreement which has now been sealed. He said: “We believe that this is a significant step forward for the industry and such self-regulation demonstrates our commitment to acting responsibly to protect the environment and produce a first-class product.”
Shetland Aquaculture general manager David Sandison said the industry was always looking at ways to maintain and build on its success and the reputation of Shetland salmon. “The signing of this agreement is just one part of a wider review of existing area management agreements which will ensure that the industry as a whole is fit for the future.”