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West coast salmon farm shares 'deep concerns' for climate change induced rise in temperatures

By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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Loch Duart farm site.
Loch Duart farm site.

Loch Duart Salmon, who rears salmon on the west coast, has expressed deep concerns for the rising water temperatures in the North Atlantic driven by climate change.

Over the past decade, the salmon farm has observed a consistent and concerning rise in sea temperatures across their sites located in Sutherland and the Outer Hebrides.

In response to these climate challenges, the fish farm is said to be taking proactive measures to adapt to and mitigate the impact of rising water temperatures.

Mark Warrington, Loch Duart managing director, said: “We recognise the importance of addressing climate change and its impact on the environment where we live and work. Loch Duart Salmon remains dedicated to developing innovative solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of our farms. Industry critics often point to mortality numbers in fish farming yet ignore the fact that the environment at sea has changed fundamentally for all marine species, including wild salmon, in recent decades. And with survival rates for the peak water temperature months of August and September well up on last year, we know these proactive approaches and staff dedication are working.”

For over a decade, Loch Duart says they have observed an increase in the frequency of algal blooms, influxes of jellyfish, environmentally induced gill disease, and the encroachment of oceanic species in farming locations. The growth of these naturally occurring phenomena can have a devastating impact on fish health and survival.

In response to this climate change induced issues, the farm has come up with five approches to tackles these challenges.

  • Broodstock: All Loch Duart farms benefit from their natural Scottish strain broodstock programme. This has been proven to produce salmon which are more resilient to the changing marine conditions than other farmed stocks.
  • Cleanerfish: Loch Duart's cleanerfish programme is said to combat the naturally occurring parasites that thrive in warmer water conditions and threaten salmon’s health.
  • Improving their salmon’s environment: Each site is equipped with an aeration system, boosting water movement and drawing cooler, more highly oxygenated water from depth. Loch Duart says that this greatly improves water quality for the fish, particularly on the calm, sunny days during the summer months.
  • Embracing new technologies: Loch Duart also uses oxygen generation technology at sea, this approach mitigates oxygen depletion events, such as those caused by algal blooms and other harmful microscopic marine species that have only appeared in these waters in recent years.
  • Staff training: The fish farm places importance on the training of all their staff to ensure they remain vigilant to any environmental changes. This includes learning skills like daily monitoring the presence of microscopic algae and oceanic jellyfish that can have a devastating impact on the salmon they are raising.

Mark Warrington went on to say: “Despite our concerns for the future of our unique business, due to rising water temperatures and their associated impacts, Loch Duart Salmon is fully committed to confronting these climate change challenges, head-on. We spare no effort to uphold the high standards of innovation, fish welfare and environmental stewardship for which we are known. Many of our more traditional small-scale farms and inland locations aid us in doing so. Loch Duart is dedicated in our aim to continue nurturing and rearing the best tasting salmon, with the lowest possible impact on the environment.”

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