Mandatory measures may soon be introduced for wild wrasse harvesting for salmon farms

Industry’s demand for live wrasse has made it the most valuable fish in Europe.

The Scottish Government seeking views about whether it should introduce mandatory measures to control the harvesting of live wrasse for the salmon farming industry.

It wrote in a release that it recognises the important role played by wrasse in controlling lice in salmon farms but “wild-caught wrasse must be fished sustainably, with effective management in place”.

In October 2018, SalmonBusiness reported that Scottish salmon farmer Loch Duart had suspended supplies of Ballan wrasse from fisherman after a BBC investigation caught him on camera allegedly breaching a voluntary conservation agreement by operating in a no-fishing zone in Dorset, south England.

At the time, wrasse were being sold for around GBP 17.50 each.

“The voluntary measures we introduced in 2018, working with the SSPO, have been in place for nearly two years, Marine Scotland has undertaken an internal review, and engaging with the SSPO and salmon farm operators. We concluded that while most of the original voluntary measures are operating satisfactorily, there is scope to improve the reporting of wrasse fishing activity and merit in introducing more formal harvesting measures – which would bring the wrasse fishery more into line with other Scottish fisheries,” wrote the Scottish Government.

In a statement, Anne Anderson, Sustainability Director of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said: “Following the successful pilot of voluntary measures, we welcome this consultation to consider how to strengthen and maintain sustainable wrasse fisheries. We continue to support the gathering of data which will provide greater depth of information and analysis. In turn, this will assist with the development of adaptive management for the fisheries.”

Though some salmon farmers are buying wild-caught, Mowi Scotland introduced its first batch of wrasse eggs to its wrasse recirculation unit in Anglesey, Wales. The news was seen as the next step in supplying cleanerfish to other Mowi sites as well as external customers.