REPORTING of deadly parasite outbreaks at fish farms should be mandatory to protect wild salmon stocks, MSPs say.

In a new report, Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee says widescale mortalities at some of Scotland’s fish farms remain “extremely high” and work must be carried out to assess whether to move facilities.

This could include the establishment of larger facilities offshore.

Recent research by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency concluded that anti-lice medicine from salmon farms is “significantly impacting local marine environments”.

The parasites occur in the natural environment but can exist in far higher numbers amongst farmed populations.

Calling for additional protections on routes used by wild fish for migration, the committee says waste collection and removal from salmon farms must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

And members say the sea lice compliance policy must be “robust and enforceable with appropriate penalties”.

Committee convenor Edward Mountain said: “If the reputation of Scottish salmon as a premium product is to be maintained, Scotland’s salmon farmers must demonstrate responsible and sustainable production methods.

“We need to raise the bar in Scotland by setting enhanced and more effective standards.”

Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), welcomed the report, saying businesses already report lice levels voluntarily and support flexibility on the locations used.

She commented: “We welcome involvement in regulatory discussions to help us do that to help ensure future regulation inspires confidence in all those with an interest in salmon farming.”

Campaigner SumOfUs is amongst those calling for new regulations to “guarantee basic standards of fish welfare, to avoid unnecessary suffering and safeguard the future of Scotland’s precious marine ecosystems”.

SumOfUs Spokesperson Anna Liberadzki said: “The evidence of welfare abuse and pollution on Scottish salmon farms has been building for months, if not years, but Holyrood has sat on its hands.”

And Don Staniford, of Scottish Salmon Watch, repeated calls for a moratorium on industry expansion.