A new campaign against salmon farming in Scotland has been launched by environmentalists, with a flotilla protest and citizen science project planned to highlight failings in the £1 billion industry.
The initiative, Salmonwatch 2019, aims to “shine a light on the murky world of factory salmon farming”, with members of the public such as kayakers, eco-tourists, ramblers and fishermen being asked to look for disease and welfare problems at aquaculture sites around the Scottish coast.
People are also being encouraged to help collect water samples from around cage sites, to test for infectious diseases, pathogens and viruses.
A tip-line for whistleblowers has been set up to allow reporting of concerns.
Fish farming is worth around £1bn to the Scottish economy, with salmon the country’s top food export. Ministers have set out plans to double production, currently around 160,000 tonnes a year, by 2030.
The move has sparked outrage among environmental and fisheries groups, who believe open-cage fish farms harm the marine ecosystem and kill off wild salmon.
Environmental campaign group Scottish Salmon Watch is spearheading the offensive, which will see water-borne demonstrations at various sites on 1 September.
Members are calling for better monitoring of the industry.
Director Don Staniford said: “Surveillance of salmon farms, including live streaming CCTV, unannounced inspections and sampling of effluents are urgently needed to keep this industry honest. The camera never lies.”
A Scottish parliamentary inquiry into the industry was carried out but found “insufficient evidence” to support calls to halt expansion.
More than 21,000 people have signed a petition calling for “immediate, unannounced” inspections of all salmon farms by Marine Scotland.
Scottish Government data shows two unannounced inspections took place in 2018.
A spokesman for the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said: “Scottish salmon is world-renowned for the quality of its product, the openness of its operations and the sustainability of its processes.
“It is enjoyed by consumers the world over and is one of Scotland’s great export success stories.”