Shetland’s largest fish farmer has been kicked out of the Scottish industry body for not complying with its rules on importing juvenile salmon, known as smolts.
Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) yesterday announced the expulsion of Hjaltland Sea Farms, which operates farms in Shetland and Skye.
Hjaltland, owned by Norwegian firm Grieg Seafood and which produces the Wildwaters smoked salmon brand, has been excluded from the group because it has been importing smolts from Norway without putting them in quarantine.
SSPO said the import of salmon smolts from another country that has equivalent fish health status is legal but is against its voluntary code of practice for members. It stressed that the firm’s actions have no human health implications but that Hjaltland’s actions risked the health of the Scottish fisheries.
Yet Sigurd Pettersen, managing director of Hjaltland, remained defiant, claiming he was not bothered about being removed from the group.
“I find it strange to choose such an action. Apart from that it doesn’t bother us very much.”
He said the company imports only freshwater smolts from its partners in Norway which imposes a strict biosecurity regime. “We take fish from an area that has the same health status or even better than the Scottish fish.
“We are no more interested in introducing new diseases to Shetland than any fish farmer in Scotland. Shetland is our only home after all.
“Membership in SSPO is voluntary. Who cares? We are out. They say they won’t let us in again until the imported smolt is harvested out, so we will continue being a non-member well until 2016.”
Scott Landsburgh, chief executive, said the SSPO made the move with “deep disappointment”.
He said: “The potential consequences of bringing in smolts without quarantine are exceptionally serious for the whole Scottish industry.
“SSPO requires its members to participate fully in the independently audited code of good practice.
“In expressing their grave concerns about the company’s plans, other members of SSPO went to extraordinary lengths to help Hjaltland source smolts from Scotland. These offers were rejected.
“I am impressed by the enormous spirit of collaboration and support shown between companies to find a solution to this problem.
“I am, therefore, all the more disappointed that every overture was rejected and it was agreed that we should take this step.”