AN award-winning Scottish chef has called on restaurants to join him in refusing to serve farmed salmon.

Lloyd Morse, who is head chef and co-owner of The Palmerston in Edinburgh, which was recently named one of the top 100 restaurants in the UK, urged chefs and industry professionals to ditch the product due to the environmental impacts of farming the species.

“Chefs across the UK need to understand how atrocious farmed salmon is,” he said. “It shouldn’t be in our waters and it shouldn’t be in our restaurants.”

Morse was speaking in support of the Off the Table campaign led by the charity Wildfish, which aims to raise awareness of the environmental harms caused by Scotland’s intensive open-net salmon farming industry.

Statistics published last month by the salmon farming industry revealed that 2.8 million salmon died from diseases and other lethal conditions on Scottish farms in September alone.

The National: Chef Lloyd Morse sticks a WildFish sticker to a window in The PalmerstonChef Lloyd Morse sticks a WildFish sticker to a window in The Palmerston (Image: WildFish)

As well as highlighting concerns for the welfare of the animals being farmed, Wildfish also highlights the impact of the industry on wild populations.

Salmon farmed in open-nets frequently fall victim to parasitic sea lice, which can spread from the farms into wild populations of salmon and trout. Infestations of sea lice can prove fatal to wild fish.

The latest figures show that 35,693 Atlantic salmon were caught by anglers on Scottish rivers in 2021, the lowest number since records began in 1952.

Dr Matt Palmer, Farmed Salmon Campaigns Manager at WildFish, said: “A food system that is increasingly reliant on antibiotics and continues to consume wild caught fish for feed and parasite control is inherently unsustainable.

“Fresh seafood should not come at the expense of our planet’s health or animal welfare, which is why we’re calling on chefs and restaurants to take farmed salmon off their menus.”

Concern about open-net salmon farming is growing across the globe, with the practice recently being banned in numerous states in the USA, including California, Oregon and Alaska, as well as being illegal in Denmark and Argentina.

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However, Wildfish criticised the Scottish Government’s continual support of the practice.

Rachel Mulrenan, WildFish’s Deputy Director for Scotland, said: “The clock is ticking on this unsustainable industry. The Scottish Government must recognise the damage being done – to our environment, wild fish, and our coastal communities – and take action, before it’s too late.”

As well as salmon farming, wild populations are also put at risk by rising river temperatures due to climate change.

In response, industry body Salmon Scotland said that most chefs consider farmed Scottish salmon to be high quality.

It pointed to polling which found that of 242 top chefs in the UK, 86 per cent said they considered farmed Scottish salmon to be the best in the world for quality and taste.

Michelin-starred chefs like Shaun Rankin said in the wake of the poll that farmed Scottish salmon was raised to "exceptional standards"

Gary MacLean, Scotland’s national chef and winner of MasterChef: The Professionals, also said: “When you're buying Scottish salmon, you know you're buying something that's a cut above the rest.

“Scottish salmon is a beautiful thing to work with – really firm, close texture. There's not a lot of fat in it. 

“The reason is that Scottish salmon is slow-grown; it takes about double the length of time to grow than most other salmon from other countries."