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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK

UK: Scotland

Salmon farming restrictions lifted

A third of salmon farmers have been given the all-clear

A third of Scotland's salmon producers who faced tight restrictions because of a deadly fish virus have been given the all-clear to begin farming again.

Infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) has crippled the fish farming industry - causing job losses and leaving it millions of pounds out of pocket.

BBC Scotland's Andrew McFadyen reports on the lifting of restrictions
But Deputy Minister for Rural Affairs John Home Robertson has announced the end of restrictions on 83 salmon farms affected by the disease.

Seven of these farms had to close their operations as a result of the virus.

The Scottish Executive said the seven farms had successfully completed requirements which included destroying all stocks and clearing their waters.

Five of the farms were closed after confirmed cases of ISA and two others were suspected of carrying the disease.

[ image: John Home Robertson announced the good news]
John Home Robertson announced the good news
Mr Home Robertson said: "Over the past 15 months the salmon farming industry has had to live with regular announcements of new outbreaks of ISA.

"As a result movement restrictions had to be imposed upon those farms and others in the surrounding areas.

"We are not out of the woods yet and certainly cannot be complacent but it is good to see some of those farms affected by ISA returning to normal business.

"In time I hope to be able to give the all clear to the remaining farms under restrictions. Meanwhile we will remain extremely vigilant.

BBC Scotland's Fiona Walker reports
He added: "But for the farms concerned, the lifting of the movement restrictions, and the freedom from the shadow of ISA which these restrictions implied, will come as a great relief and, hopefully, provide much needed confidence for the future."

The Scottish Salmon Growers Association welcomed the announcement but it is still lobbying for compensation for fish already destroyed because of the virus scare.

The lifting of controls has not found favour with everyone. The Highland Council's land and environment committee has warned the move might be too hasty.

It blamed bad practice for the spread of the disease and argued restrictions should remain in place.

Whether or not Scotland's salmon farmers are successful in winning compensation could depend on a test case which has been referred to the European Court of Justice.

Argyll-based Booker Aquaculture is seeking £600,000 government compensation for destroying turbot after an outbreak of the fish disease VHS.

If the fish farm wins, the Scottish Executive could be forced to pay millions of pounds to farmers whose stocks were destroyed by ISA.

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