Things we have got wrong and things we could do better (What matters to us!)

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It is not easy for anyone to admit that they have got things wrong and those who find us difficult to accept will not like this but we have made mistakes. This is not about simple issues and we at Loch Duart have to accept that sometimes we do not meet our own lofty goals. It will be easier to explain as we go along.

We have noticed an increase in lice levels over the last few years and have been trying to counter this with both treatment and a change of strategy. As salmon farming is such a long process, it takes several years for the strategy to pay off as we have said before. Already the lice levels on our 2014 stocks are much reduced and it is to be hoped that we will see a much better year next year. This year has seen an improvement in some ways and on some sites. The new fallowing and culture system will see significant changes and will be fully operational by 2015.

Meanwhile we have to give our fish medicines when the lice levels require treatment. At all times Loch Duart complies with the amounts of medicines allowed by our environmental agency and samples the environment to test whether we are leaving any residues. One compound, which we have used sparingly, was used last year. On previous occasions subsequent testing has shown a non-detectable result from the seabed around our pens. Imagine our surprise at the end of last year when we found that the levels had rocketed and we were in breach of the allowable levels around our pens. We only received the results from the testing in February and March 2013 and simply couldn’t believe them. We contacted our environmental agency immediately and began discussions. On 24th June 2013 we wrote to SEPA and told them that we would not be using this compound again until either the results were found to be wrong or we could understand how this had happened. This position has not changed and will not change. It is galling to have used a compound as advised by our environmental agency and then to find the residues but then there are no guarantees in anything. We will retest and retest again until we find that the sediments are back where they should be. Even when they return to normal we will not be using this compound again.

Since we are on the subject of medicines and as we usually do, here is the amount of medicines we have used per tonne of salmon produced in 2012:

The figure is 5.25g. For emphasis, this is the total amount of medicines used on each tonne of salmon produced for the whole of 2012. There are those who will say that this is excessive and Loch Duart must accept that we need to get to a point where this is even less but, when equated to a 100Kg human being, this would equate to between 2 and 3 ibuprofen tablets per year. It is not good to use medicines at all and we believe that our new culture system will improve things over the next years. Meanwhile we will work hard to improve this.

We have made other mistakes and undoubtedly those of you who think Loch Duart is perfect will be surprised. Luckily, there are very few who think that we are more than human. Our problem has always been that we grow few fish on a lot of sites. This system has, we believe, the major advantage of keeping the farms small in each area and, thus, the possibility of significant impact over a wide area is reduced. As all our customers know, one of the downsides is that we have to employ more people and this style of farming, in small pens, is more costly. We believe it is more responsible too, delivering a better quality salmon.

Unluckily this is where the mistake crept in. We were sure that our seabed results were good and that we would not have sites classed as unsatisfactory. The environmental agency requires us to sample the seabed at the time when we have the greatest weight of fish on site. With our year fallow this meant that we sampled once every 3 years. Once we had a problem on site, we changed the farm but didn’t realize how a stack of poor results had built up. This was a failure of overview and the fault must lie with the Managing Director.

Loch Duart has now implemented a full review and has changed the culture and fallow system. In most cases the period of fallow has increased. This will improve the results but, in some cases, we have also significantly reduced the size of the farm on the site. We do not take our mistake here lightly but this cannot be rectified in a short time. We believe that our benthic results in 2013 will improve considerably and further improvements will occur over the next years. Clearly not all sites are sampled every year because of fallowing one year and first year fish the next, so this process takes time. Loch Duart realizes that it should have spotted this trend developing and will ensure that it does not happen again.

Nick Joy
16th October 2013

Managing Director