Momentous Changes

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It seems these days that the world is full of doom and gloom. If it isn’t the floods and the world-ending climate change that is supposed to be causing it, then it is that salmon farmers are causing the destruction of the entire planet.

No, this is not going to be a fight-back piece nor a scientific argument about how all of the arguments against salmon farming are wrong, though that will come. This is an oddly cheering piece of news.

In 2003 Loch Duart finally called ‘enough’ on the salmon feed industry. We unilaterally banned the use of threatened Blue Whiting from our salmon feed.  Prior to this we had tried to get the feed company to tell us exactly which species we were using. The feeble response was that the fisheries mixed the species and thus they and we could not know.

For those who are not used to fish feed formulation, this is rather like claiming you can’t tell the difference between flour and bicarbonate of soda. Imagine trying to make a cake in that case. Different fishmeals behave very differently when making feed. We know that now, we didn’t then. So, in frustration we banned Blue Whiting from our salmon feed and looked for a new supplier.

We found one outside the UK that could identify exactly what we were using and worked with them for three years. Then, when we looked again for a UK supplier, imagine our surprise to find that all the feed companies could tell us what we needed to know.

From that time and up till today, we have worked with EWOS {Scotland} and a very good relationship has developed. They have been kind enough to say that our way of thinking has affected the way they work and that is very gratifying when there is so much to achieve. Feed sourcing remains one of the biggest areas of impact by a salmon farm and working with a feed company to try to find the right formulations is critical to our commitment.

We have looked at many alternatives with EWOS, from ragworms and fly protein to algal meals both macro and micro. So far, and even though a number of us invested in a ragworm farm, nothing has been successful.

(Just as a note, there is a new farm which professes to use a ragworm diet. This is highly unlikely as the only farm producing ragworm is in France. It produces 120 tonnes p.a. and all of it is currently sold for other uses.)

The latest micro-algal meal seems to offer a great deal of hope though, as usual, it is very hard to get hold of what we need. Micro-algae offer the greatest hope as they contain the same proteins and oils as are found in most of the food chain in the sea. Thus the theory goes that we would gain all the advantages of the correct and natural diet for salmon, ie fish, whilst avoiding the environmental impact. Every effort will be put into finding this solution.

So having started this note by saying there are momentous changes, there has been little of note so far, except that we have failed to find the alternative that we so desperately seek!

Well, about 4 years ago EWOS invited us to an unplanned meeting to tell us that they had funded the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) to look into feed fisheries and to rate them. It had remained a very difficult thing to decide which fisheries were ok and which not until this point. Data was hard to come by and often inaccurate. It was an incredibly innovative thing that EWOS did for the aquaculture industry and, at first, we did not know what to expect. We were, however, hugely heartened by the potential for this to guide us towards better decisions. So it has proved and we have since seen the remaining feed companies join and use the system.

These changes have improved our ability to select and it has also guided the feed companies and the regulators because, once commercial pressure is applied, things happen. This is not to say everything is rosy in the garden but there are some notable successes. The first one that needs to be mentioned is Blue Whiting. When we banned it in 2003, it was fished by many countries, the TAC (Total Annual Catch) was set at 2.1m tonnes when scientific advice was set at 900,000 tonnes and, very shortly afterwards, the fishery was in deep trouble. I won’t go into the complexity of the scoring system for these fisheries, not because it is too complex to understand, but because it would take too long. Take a look at the website if you want to check but the Blue Whiting stock now scores 10 out of 10 for stock health. Oh there are things that are still wrong but it is wonderful that this stock has recovered.


Data from FishSource. Careful species selection. Natural fees

Loch Duart still monitors and still selects fisheries based on the state of the fishery and this pressure continues to encourage fisheries to find better practices. Whilst there is no doubt that pressure from ENGOs will help to make fisheries behave responsibly, there is nothing as powerful as commercial pressure.

It has been good to see the Marine Conservation Society moving into this area and SFP is calling for ecosystem-based approaches for defining TACs. Loch Duart heartily supports these calls and hopes that all the action required by SFP for fisheries is completed as soon as possible.

We are a small, different company concentrating on farming the best way we can, whilst providing fish that are good to eat and good for you. We don’t want unnecessary impact on the environment but know that every action every one of us takes has an effect. We try hard to understand our impacts and to monitor them. Our relationship with our suppliers and our customers is key to changing and improving what we do.

Nick Joy

Managing Director