UK Vegan naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham has called for a halt to the expansion of the Scottish salmon farming industry, as farmed salmon mortality has hit record levels this year. He described the growing industry as “catastrophic” for fish welfare and Scotland’s environment. However, he has been criticised for these comments as he is still one of the presidents (an honorary position) of the RSPCA, an animal welfare organisation that not only does not condemn fish farming but also has an RSPCA Assured scheme that rubber stamps several salmon farms that make many animals suffer.
In a newsletter to supporters of Animal Equality, Packham said, “Millions of fish are dying prematurely, parasites and diseases are out of control, and Scotland’s natural environment is suffering as farm waste blights the seabed… Escapes and interbreeding with wild fish is leading to compromised fitness and increased sea-lice risks for wild populations.”
According to the Fish Health Inspectorate, 13.5 million salmon mortalities were reported by Scottish farms from January to October 2023, compared with 11.5 million during the same period in 2022. The causes of this doubling of mortality rate have been reported to be growing levels of disease, parasites and jellyfish swarms.
Rachel Mulrenan, Scotland director of WildFish, said: “Any public figure making a commitment to raise awareness of the issues with salmon farming is positive. But this dual role that the RSPCA is playing is unhelpful. RSPCA Assured should not be certifying salmon farms, it interferes with the work of the organisation to raise awareness of action needed. The certificate is a proxy for good environmental performance and welfare, but this is not matched on the water. Look at the mortality numbers this month alone.”
Don Staniford, of the $camon $cotland campaign, said to the Guardian, “Packham is raising a legitimate issue. The latest data from October shows the highest level of mortality in salmon farms. If their own president is raising the issue then the RSPCA’s position is untenable.”