Mowi reflects on BBC Panorama programme - MOWI - Scotland

Mowi reflects on BBC Panorama programme

Our Commitment to Sustainable Salmon Farming

Mowi’s most material value driver is the responsible development of aquaculture.

We have more than 50 years’ experience of salmon farming in Scotland.

We have invested over £200m in 3 years in our systems, processes and people to ensure we produce the best quality fish for our customers.

Our activities are regulated, licensed and inspected – more than 300 audits every year.

We work with many animal welfare and conservation groups including the RSPCA and our salmon are raised and harvested according to their RSPCA Assured salmon welfare standard.

Mowi and Panorama

This past month, the investigative journalism programme ‘Panorama’ (BBC 1), contacted Mowi Scotland and other industry associates to request an interview about its business. On May 9, Mowi’s Communications Director, Ian Roberts, provided an interview. Below are the themes of Panorama’s enquiries and Mowi’s response. The show aired on BBC 1 on Monday May 20th.

Sustainable development

We have a strong commitment to sustainability. We know that to be a successful business, with a long-term future, we have to produce healthy fish in a way that it is environmentally sustainable and take care of the communities where we work and the 1500 people we employ in Scotland.

Supporting salmon farming regulations

We’re very supportive of strong industry regulation, inclusive of audits and transparency; it’s how we improve as a business. We believe in transparency of data that is of interest to consumers, and that is why we voluntarily publish data on our website above what is legally required (weekly sea lice numbers and fish survival for example). We believe that Scottish laws governing aquaculture are some of the strongest in the world and we welcome that – we want customers to be confident in the salmon we raise. We also expect that regulations will evolve with our sector as it grows.

Aim for zero use of medicines 

We aim for zero use of medicines. Whilst used sparingly to treat an illness (never prophylactically), only licensed medicines are provided to our fish under veterinary prescription, and carefully controlled clearance periods are adhered to before salmon are sent to market.

Effectiveness vaccines are provided to each young salmon that helps protect from naturally occurring diseases prevalent at sea, while further reducing the need for medicines. In 2018, we used just 10 grammes of licensed antibiotics to treat 1000 kilogrammes (1,000,000 grammes) of salmon. (Mowi 2018 Annual Report, page 67)

We employ qualified vets and fish health professionals and our use of medicines is subject to regular, unannounced inspections by SEPA and Marine Scotland.

Measuring biomass

It is our responsibility to make sure that we accurately report the weight of fish swimming in the water, because each farm has a biomass limit (weight of salmon in tonnes) set by regulators which is based on scientific parameters specific to that location. When salmon are moved to sea, we use a computer model to predict fish growth, but we don’t just rely on prediction – as part of our welfare monitoring we physically weigh some of the fish once they have grown to check the accurate measurements. Nearer to market time, we also receive accurate weights from our harvests, which again provide us real time fish weights.

Sometimes the computer model can be wrong, because it assumes the fish eat all of the food each day – but if salmon become stressed from high water temperatures, harmful plankton or stormy weather, the fish may not eat all their food and may lose weight. If the actual weight of the fish is different to the computer model prediction, we will make the corrections to ensure accuracy. Our most accurate estimate of the weight of salmon swimming on the farm is reported to regulators monthly.

Our final results show us to be very accurate: we are typically within 2% of expected final inventory.

Measuring biomass

Sea lice

Sea lice are a naturally occurring parasite that are hosted by many marine fish, and our team of marine biologists and veterinarians work very hard to address the risk sea lice may pose to fish welfare – to both wild and farm-raised salmon. We recognise and accept our responsibility to ensure our fish are not another source of sea lice for wild salmon and trout as they swim near our farms. Every week we publish the results of our sea lice management on our website for everyone to see.

We have been very open about our challenges to manage sea lice to acceptable levels over the past few years – brought about by rising sea temperatures during an El Niño year. By investing in the right people and right technology to effectively manage sea lice on our salmon to low levels, we are reporting the lowest levels of sea lice over the past five years. The graph below illustrates historical data on the reduction of adult female Lepeophtheirus (natural marine parasites of fish living mostly on salmon) per fish.

Salmon mortality rate 

We strive for 100% survival rates – this is in our best interest. We have been very open to the fact that fish survival rates over the past few years have not been where we would like them to be. We have taken significant actions to improve our performance: employing a team fish health professionals and fish vets, innovating new net cleaning solutions, investing in plankton protection systems and ensuring our fish are protected from common predators.

We also work closely with animal welfare and conservation groups including the RSPCA (‘Assured’ welfare scheme) who audit our farms every year and ensure we are doing our best for fish care. Thankfully, we are already seeing the benefits of our work coming through, with fish survival improving significantly. We provide our weekly fish mortality results on our website for each of our farms.

Auditing our results

Our activities are regulated, licensed and inspected and approximately 300 audits of our business activities and product quality occur each year, many of them unannounced. Third-party audits will inspect food safety, health and safety, fish welfare, environmental and social compliance according to specific standards. Much of the results can be found online. Some standards we are audited to include:

Additional comments post airing

Images of unhealthy salmon

We want to make clear that none of these images of distressed salmon were filmed at Mowi farms – we did provide Panorama access to our facilities for filming, but they did not include images of Mowi operations in their programme. Understandably images of distressed fish will be very concerning to the viewer, as it is to us. These images do not accurately represent how salmon are raised at Mowi, or generally in Scotland. Mowi has been salmon farming for over 50 years, and our aim is always to produce the best quality fish, in a way which has the least impact on the natural environment. We are committed to doing everything we can to provide our salmon with comfortable and healthy living conditions, which includes a policy that ensures (at maximum size) our salmon cages contain 2% fish and 98% water.

Breaches of license conditions

Panorama correctly stated that Mowi had “breached its weight licenses 46 times over the past decade”. There were 8,151 reports or audits submitted during that period (99.5% compliance). We recognise that any breach of our licence conditions is one too many, but our compliance record continues to improve and in the rare instances that a breach has taken place, we take full responsibility for it and create an immediate correction plan.

Panorama noted that, over the past three years, results of regulated seabed sampling indicated medicinal residues over acceptable limits at 20 locations. The use of the in-feed medicines is tightly regulated in Scotland, used sparingly by our company, provided to our fish in compliance to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency regulation and under prescription of a licensed veterinarian. Treatments that comply to the regulatory limits (amount of medicine used) can result in sampling failures. Regardless, year upon year we continue to reduce the amount of medicines used in favour of new non-medicinal fish health methods.

Visit our national website: