NORWAY ORDERS SLAUGHTER OF TWO MILLION SEA-LICE INFESTED FARMED SALMON IN ORDER TO PROTECT WILD SALMON

Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) questions whether Scottish Government would ever take similar action

Norway orders slaughter of two million sea-lice infested farmed salmon in order to protect wild salmon

NORWAY ORDERS SLAUGHTER OF TWO MILLION SEA-LICE INFESTED FARMED SALMON IN ORDER TO PROTECT WILD SALMON

Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) questions whether Scottish Government would ever take similar action

The Norwegian authorities have recently ordered that some two million sea-lice infested farmed salmon in the Vikna district of Nord Trondelag be slaughtered with immediate effect after becoming resistant to chemical treatments against the sea-lice parasite. The action has been prompted specifically to protect wild young salmon (smolts) migrating through the fjords to the open sea next May and June from huge numbers of juvenile sea-lice being produced on and released from particular salmon farms that have been unable to control their lice numbers.

Last week the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TA(S)) wrote to the Scottish Government, drawing attention to the situation in Norway and asking what consideration it is giving to applying "similar punitive sanctions" against salmon farm operators in Scotland which are unable to keep sea-lice numbers below agreed thresholds.

Hugh Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TA(S), said:
"Norway’s clamp-down on those salmon farms where sea-lice numbers are out of control shows that it takes the protection of wild salmon seriously. The contrast with the situation in Scotland could hardly be more marked. Here the salmon farming industry’s own figures confirm that sea-lice numbers have been out of control for many months on farms in areas such as West Sutherland and the northern part of Wester Ross and yet the Scottish Government declines to take any action whatsoever. It is difficult to reach any other conclusion but that Scottish Government has decided that west coast wild salmon and sea trout are expendable and that such a price is worth paying in the interests of salmon farming and its expansion."

Under Norway’s regulatory regime the Norwegian Food Safety Authority can levy significant fines of up to 200,000 kroner (some £20,000) per day on salmon farm operators where sea-lice levels on farmed salmon remain over accepted sea-lice thresholds.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA(S) Aquaculture Campaign, said:
"If the companies operating in the far north-west Highlands where lice numbers were consistently well above industry thresholds for the first half of 2013 – Wester Ross Fisheries and/or Scottish Sea Farms in the Kennart to Gruinard region and Loch Duart Ltd in the Inchard to Kirkaig North region – had been subject to the Norwegian regulatory regime, they could well have been liable for fines amounting to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds.

Scotland needs to be sure that its regulatory regime is able to respond decisively like that in Norway, not only in terms of fines but also the transparency of sea-lice numbers. In Norway, salmon farmers are required by law to report sea-lice data on a farm-specific basis to the authorities, together with details of sea-lice treatments and the efficacy or otherwise of such treatments, which then enables the Norwegian authorities to reduce the threat to wild salmon and sea trout and, as we have just seen, where necessary order the culling of millions of infested farmed salmon".

Why are sea lice on fish-farms such a threat to wild salmonids?
The negative impact of sea lice, produced in huge numbers by fish farms, on wild salmonids (salmon and sea trout) is widely accepted by fisheries scientists including the Scottish Government’s own Marine Scotland Science (see Note 8).

In Ireland, the Government of Ireland’s agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland, is crystal clear as to where the problem lies (see Note 9):

"The presence of salmon farms has been shown to significantly increase the level of sea lice infestation in sea trout in Ireland, Scotland and Norway. These lice infestations have been shown to follow the development of marine salmon aquaculture….studies from Ireland, Scotland and Norway have shown that in bays where salmon farming takes place the vast majority of sea lice originate from salmon farms……"

Most recently, a new paper published in 2013 by a group of fisheries experts from Norway, Canada and Scotland re-analyses data from various Irish studies and shows that the impact of sea lice on wild salmon causes a very high loss (34%) of those returning to Irish rivers (see Note 10).

Most importantly, there is clear evidence that both wild salmon and sea trout are in decline in Scotland’s ‘aquaculture zone’, whereas, generally, populations have stabilized on the east and north coasts where there is no fish-farming (see Note 11).

Click here: pdf of letter "Culling of sea-lice infested farmed salmon in Norway" from S&TA(S) to the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change

Notes to Editors

  1. The Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) was established in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. For 110 years, the S&TA has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment on behalf of game angling and fisheries. The S&TA has charitable status in both England and Scotland. The S&TA’s charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by strong scientific evidence from its scientific network. Its charitable status enable it to take the widest possible remit in protecting salmonid fish stocks, and the aquatic environment upon which they depend. www.salmon-trout.org
  2. Just what is the problem with sea lice? Adult wild salmon are perfectly adapted to coping with a few sea lice. Background levels of these parasites occur naturally in the sea. However the advent of salmon farming, particularly in fjordic sea lochs, has led to a fundamental change in the density and occurrence of sea lice in parts of the coastal waters of the west Highlands and Islands. Even one or two mature female sea lice per fish within a set of cages housing hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon amounts to a rampant breeding reservoir pumping literally billions of mobile juvenile sea lice out into the local marine environment. The consequences when wild salmon and sea trout smolts, the metamorphosing fragile skin of which is not adapted to cope with more than the odd louse, migrate from local rivers into this "sea lice soup" are devastating.
    A burden in excess of 13 pre-adult sea lice is known to compromise severely the survival of juvenile migratory salmonids. Lice feed by grazing on the surface of the fish and eating the mucous and skin. Large numbers of lice soon cause the loss of fins, severe scarring, secondary infections and, in time, death. Quite literally, the fish are eaten alive. Badly infested salmon smolts disappear out to sea, never to be seen again. In contrast afflicted sea trout smolts remain within the locality and they, together with the impact of the deadly burdens they carry, are more easily monitored through sweep net operations.
  3. The first SSPO report giving aggregated sea lice data from fish farms covering 30 regions of Scotland over January to March 2013 is available at: http://www.scottishsalmon.co.uk/repo/SC0154_SSPO_Health_Management_FINAL.pdf
    The second SSPO report covering April to June is available at: http://healthmanagementreport.co.uk/SC0154%20SSPO%20Health%20Management%20PF%20Aug%202013.pdf
  4. Wester Ross Fisheries Limited’s farms in Loch Broom and little Loch Broom have a poor track record of controlling their sea lice numbers.
    Fish Health Inspectorate reports of inspections conducted at WRF’s farm at Ardmair in Loch Kanaird on 10th November 2009, 15th June 2011, 2nd August 2011 and 25th July 2012, at WRF’s farm in Loch Broom at Corry on 21st March 2011 and 6th June 2011 and in Little Loch Broom at Ardessie on 7th June 2011, 2nd August 2011 and 16th May 2013 all recorded that sea-lice levels of the farmed fish were not below the suggested adult female sea lice threshold in the industry’s own Code of Good Practice during the period that records were inspected.
  5. The Scottish Sea Farm’s farm at Tanera was inspected by the Fish Health Inspectorate on 12th February 2013. The inspection recorded high gravid numbers (adult female lice with eggs) on the farmed fish. Sea-lice levels on the farmed fish were not below the suggested adult female sea lice threshold in the industry’s own Code of Good Practice during the period that records were inspected, despite the presence on the farm of 42,000 wrasse ‘cleaner fish’.
  6. Currently, the fish farm companies are only required under the Record Keeping Order to collect and record weekly sea-lice count data at each of their farms (including the number of adult female lice found per farmed fish, which is a surrogate measure for the production of juvenile lice). They are not required by law to publish this data, nor submit it to the Scottish Government’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI).
  7. Referring to a proposal to require the publication of farm-specific sea lice data, Douglas Sinclair of SEPA told the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee that this is "one of the few areas in the Scottish environment in which someone can be doing something that can significantly impact on someone else’s interests and there is no public access to what is going on … if someone lives downwind of smoking chimneys on a factory and they want to find out what is in the smoke, they can find out from us—from the published record. Fish farming in Scotland is the one omission. For all sorts of reasons, it ought to be sorted out and the information ought to be published." Official Report, Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, 5 December 2012; c 1431.
  8. Marine Scotland Science (2013) Summary of information relating to impacts of sea lice from fish farms on Scottish sea trout and salmon – 4th April 2013 – see www.standupforwildsalmon.org. Note that Marine Scotland Science acknowledges that compliance with the thresholds within the Code of Good Practice is not necessarily sufficient to ensure that juvenile sea lice emanating from the fish farms do not damage wild fish.
    See also S&TA (2013) Recent research and findings on the impact of salmon aquaculture on wild salmonids – see www.standupforwildsalmon.org
  9. Inland Fisheries Ireland (2013) Factsheet on the Impact of Salmon Farms on Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Stocks.
  10. M Krkosek, C W Revie, B Finstad and C D Todd (2013) Comment on Jackson et al. “Impact of Lepeophtheirus salmonis infestations on migrating Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., smolts at eight locations in Ireland with an analysis of lice-induced marine mortality” – Journal of Fish Diseases.
  11. http://www.rafts.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/East-v-West-final-RWB.pdf
  12. For further information on the work of the S&TA (Scotland) see www.salmon-troutscotland.org