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The new revision of the RSPCA farmed Atlantic salmon welfare standards will come into effect in May 2024, introducing over 300 standards and amendments

RSPCA Assured has announced the revision of the RSPCA welfare standards for farmed Atlantic salmon.

The new rules will come into effect in May 2024, introducing over 300 standards and amendments.

Key highlights include the introduction of non-medicinal treatment standards for sea lice and gill disease, mandatory regular welfare outcomes assessments, and improvements to the stunning and slaughter processes. These include introducing the requirement for CCTV coverage for the entire slaughter process.

Other changes made were a clarification of a requirement to undertake daily checks for sick or dying fish in all tanks and enclosures, with immediate action required for any issues identified and the introduction of formal written production plans to prevent unnecessary culling.

The RSPCA scheme has also introduced rules on the use of antibiotics on-farm. Their use must be now reviewed annually or at the end a production cycle.

“The new farmed Atlantic salmon standards will be a huge step forward for fish welfare and among other changes, include pioneering new standards for non-medicinal treatments for sea lice and gill disease,” said Sean Black, senior scientific officer and aquaculture specialist at the RSPCA.

“Further, we are pleased to introduce over 80 new standards to improve cleanerfish welfare,” he added. “These include the need to risk assess the impact of treatments on their welfare, the requirement to record, categorise and monitor all mortality causes and reduce transport stocking density.”

Last month, campaigners and the farmed fish sector agreed on the need for tighter legislation on humane fish slaughter at a parliamentary meeting.

Proposals for farmed fish to have the same legal protections at the time of slaughter as other land farmed animals were met with a “high degree of consensus” as there was currently a “legislative anomaly”, said chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for animal welfare, Lord Alexander Trees at the time. 

The RSPCA welfare standards had been a catalyst for change throughout the salmon industry for over 20 years, the organisation said.

“We understand that some of the new standards may be challenging,” said Black. “But we are here to support and offer advice to members in implementing these.”

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