Scottish salmon farming’s ‘liciest’ farms named and shamed

Data reveals astonishingly high sea lice levels, Scottish Government regulation of salmon farms shown to be wholly inadequate.

Today, Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland names and shames the liciest fish-farms in Scotland.

Following the formal decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner ( ) that Scottish Ministers unlawfully tried to withhold information naming fish farms that had breached Scottish Government trigger levels for the numbers of adult female sea lice on farmed salmon, S&TC Scotland has now received the information in question.

It shows that sea lice numbers are running out of control in much of the industry for extended periods and failures by individual farms to operate with lice numbers below Scottish Government’s trigger levels are routine.

A new sea lice regime, announced by the Scottish Government with great fanfare at the June 2016 inter-governmental North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization meeting, has been operating since October 2016.

Scottish Government’s new trigger levels of 3 adult female lice per farmed salmon (at which point a “site-specific escalation plan” to reduce lice numbers is required) and 8 adult female lice per farmed salmon (at which point, enforcement action may be ordered to harvest early, reduce biomass or cull-out a farm) are already very considerably more generous to the fish-farmers than the industry’s own longstanding Code of Good Practice (CoGP) sea lice treatment levels of 0.5 or 1 lice per fish, depending on the time of year.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TC Scotland, said:

“Many of the individual farms’ sea lice numbers, which have long been hidden within regional aggregated ‘averages’ published by the industry, are far worse than we envisaged. Sea lice numbers on farmed fish across much of the industry are of epidemic proportions.

More worrying, the Scottish Government’s flagship new policy appears to be a sham, little more than a cynical ‘widening of the goalposts’ to the industry’s advantage, a policy with no teeth.”

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to S&TC Scotland, said:

"The data that Scottish Government didn’t want anyone to see shows that salmon farms have been permitted to operate with breathtakingly high lice numbers for weeks or months on end. To date, no meaningful enforcement action, such as the ordering of culls or immediate reductions in fish-farm biomass, has been taken against serial offenders.

The Scottish Government has a legal duty to protect and conserve wild salmon and sea trout, but this data shows it is failing to rein in the biggest threat to wild salmonids.”

Key findings from the published data include:

The list of those farms that breached the 3 and/or 8 trigger levels includes farms from all the large fish farming companies and most smaller ones.

Note: The figures cover the period extending from week 43 in 2016 (November) to week 35 in 2017(end August) inclusive. The first number following the name of a farm refers to the number of reported weeks with adult female lice counts between 3 and 8, and the second number refers to the number of reported weeks above 8).

The worst performing company in the Scottish Islands and overall worst performing company in Scotland was Grieg Seafood Shetland Ltd. Its farms’ figures were – North Papa (14 & 12), North Havra (14 & 6), Spoose Holm (17 & 8), Leinish (13 & 6), Score Holms (18 & 11), Gob na Hoe (17 & 6), Corlarach (12 & 5), West of Burwick (13 & 5), Langa Isle (East) (10 & 8).

Mr Graham-Stewart commented:

“Grieg Seafood’s lamentable record exemplifies the very widespread failure to control sea lice in the Shetlands. It is no wonder that mature wild sea trout are being wiped out in these islands.”

The worst performing company in the West Highlands was The Scottish Salmon Company. Its concentration of farms in Loch Fyne (Argyll) include figures of – Quarry Point (6 & 5), Ardcastle Bay (15 & 6), Strondoir Bay (3 & 3), Gob a Bharra (6 & 0) and Furnace Quarry (0 & 7).

Furnace Quarry farm was allowed by Scottish Government inspectors to continue to operate despite an astonishing sequence of seven weeks, with adult female lice numbers ranging from 15 to 23 per farmed fish.

Mr Graham-Stewart commented:

“The release of free-swimming stage lice into Loch Fyne from The Scottish Salmon Company’s farms in 2016 through to 2017 would have been astonishingly high. Given the company’s inability to control sea lice in Loch Fyne, and elsewhere, it should face serious penalty.

It is shameless that The Scottish Salmon Company’s managing director was only two weeks ago bemoaning the amount of ‘red tape’ he has to deal with (read here).

It is now also plain why the industry was so determined earlier this year to prevent a fact-finding visit to Loch Fyne by MSPs from the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.”

The worst performing smaller operator was Loch Duart Ltd. Its mainland farms’ figures included Clashnessie Bay (10 & 6) and Loch Laxford (15 & 5).

Mr Graham-Stewart commented:

“Loch Duart’s prolonged failure to control sea lice, despite the company’s over-trumpeted use of cleaner fish, is evidence that cleaner fish such as wrasse or lumpfish are simply not the panacea the industry’s constant spinning suggests.”


 The requests for information

Late last year and this year, S&TC Scotland made a number of requests for information for details of those farms that had notified Marine Scotland that the new Scottish trigger levels had been exceeded, but Scottish Ministers had declined to provide the information, on the basis that to do so would cause “substantial prejudice” to the interests of the fish farmers which had provided the information.

After two separate and detailed referrals by S&TC Scotland, the Scottish Information Commissioner ruled that arguments put forward by S&TC Scotland, for full disclosure of the names of the liciest fish farms in Scotland, were correct, and that the Scottish Ministers had unlawfully tried to prevent public scrutiny.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor for S&TC Scotland, said:

“It is now abundantly clear why Scottish Ministers tried so hard to prevent the publication of individual salmon farm figures and thus shield the Scottish salmon farming industry from proper public scrutiny.

It is to Scottish Ministers’ shame that it took a formal legal referral to the Scottish Information Commissioner from a conservation charity to make them recognise the obvious legitimate public interest in identifying poorly-run poorly-managed fish farms, so that consumers can avoid buying fish from those farms and those suppliers.

The true extent of the failure of salmon farms to control sea lice is astonishing. Claims that the situation is under control are risible and we will now write to the supermarkets asking them to stop selling salmon from the worst-performing farms.”


Latest industry aggregated figures show the sea lice problem is getting worse

Across the industry as a whole, the upward trend in failure of salmon farms to control sea lice and stay below the Code of Good Practice (CoGP) threshold of 1 or 0.5 adult female sea lice per farmed fish continues.

The graph below, drawn up using SSPO data, shows that regions covering 61.4% of total farmed salmon production in Scotland were over CoGP thresholds in June 2017, the last month for which aggregated sea lice data has been published.


Even for that 1/3 or so of the industry that does remain below CoGP thresholds for sea lice, Marine Scotland scientists recognise that:

“...adherence to the suggested criteria for treatment of sea lice stipulated in the industry CoGP may not necessarily prevent release of substantial numbers of lice from aquaculture installations”.


Parliamentary Inquiry due in early 2018

A formal Petition, at , lodged in the Scottish Parliament in February 2016 by S&TC Scotland, seeking protection for wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms, has resulted in MSPs launching an Inquiry into the salmon farming industry in Scotland.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee of MSPs agreed at Holyrood in July (at, to conduct a full-blown Inquiry into salmon farming in Scotland and the issues raised in S&TC Scotland’s Petition.

Guy Linley-Adams continued:

“Scottish Ministers need to rethink radically their approach to the salmon farming industry and to end their unconditional support for the industry in the face of this and other equally shocking environmental data now being revealed about its performance.

Ministers must also stop trying to protect salmon farmers from legitimate criticism.

We also call upon the industry itself to end both its tobacco-industry style denials about the damage it causes and the ‘tit for tat’ accusations it repeatedly makes, in favour of embracing the positive change that must now come."


Issued by Andrew Graham-Stewart (telephone 01863 766767 or 07812 981531) on behalf of Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland. For more information please contact, 07837 881219 or 01432 379093.

Further information on the S&TC Scotland salmon farming campaign is available at

60 thoughts on “Scottish salmon farming’s ‘liciest’ farms named and shamed

  1. This is saddening. but what does this mean for the consumer. Is there a problem with our health or is this, like salmonella, destroyed after adequate cooking? Please advise me.

    1. The whole point of this is the threat to wild salmon from the infected farmed fish. With high concentrations of lice in the farmed fish there will be more free-swimming lice in the surrounding waters to infect the wild fish population.

      The issue is NOT about whether your packaged salmon fillets from the supermarket are safe for you to eat; I think you are on the wrong website – this is “Salmon and Trout Conservation”, not “Which”

    2. Many thanks for this – no, absolutely no problem with human health. It is causing an environmental catastrophe across the Northern Hemisphere wherever salmon farming is operated, principally by transferring sea lice to wild salmon and sea trout which are then eaten alive by the parasite!

      1. It is especially harmful to the young wild salmon(smolts) which may not survive even a few sealice. If they do survive, they will be prone to attacks from predators as their mobility will be affected. (slow swimmers)
        We have the same crap going on here in British Columbia with our fish farms. Our politicians no longer serve the people. They’ve been bought out by the corporations and in return let them get away with pretty much anything. It’s really sickening to see the harm this industry is doing to the environment and our wild salmon. They are going the way of the bufallo. The farms need to transition out of the ocean and onto land through RAS closed containment systems.

    3. Up to you if you enjoy that flabby, greasy excuse for salmon. They’re fed on pig offal among other things, and last I heard they’re then fed a pink dye to imitate the natural colour of salmon, using a dye which is banned in the EU as potentially carcinogenic. They’re also now suffering badly from amoebic gill disease which kills them by suffocation.

  2. It’s a disgrace, these farms should be shut down. It’s only the fact that they are big exporters that allows them to operate. The Scottish government should be ashamed of themselves. They preport to be a government that is environmentally friendly!! What a laugh all they care about is money just like the rest of the pigs in the trough!

    1. Since we where made aware of this problem we have not purchased any salmon of any description. We fish sea loch and river have a great respect for our water ways . Pity the Scottish Government didn’t put money first abdh look at the state of our seas . This will and is having a effect on the sea birds food We are fishing Assynt next year and sea 2 of the lochs are named in your list we will certainly not go there .

  3. After being able to eventually winkle this information from the Scottish Government is there any way to hold them to account for not upholding the companies involved to the required standards?

    But well done STCS, you have done sterling service to all that hold our salmonid stocks dear in our hearts.

    1. Thanks – the Parliamentary Inquiry into salmon farming and its impact on wild fish – which was announced as the result of our petition and video on the demise of Loch Marie as a sea trout fishery – is scheduled for early next year, and we will be putting a large evidence dossier to the Committee at that time. This will include draft amendments to legislation that gives the Government the legal responsibility to protect wild fish from salmon farming – incredibly, the Government only has responsibility for the welfare of fish in the cages!

  4. We must stop this evil trade sold to the public as safe and environmentally friendly salmon, it’s responsible for the wiping out of both Scotlands and England’s native salmon and sea trout population. The same effect is being felt in Canada on the Pacific coast near Vancover island as millions of Atlantic Salmon are raised in cages wiping out the natural salmon runshoulder of pacific salmon! Big business as usual walk over the environment with hobnail boots! Politicians seem unwilling or unable to get out of bed with these companies! The ocean is precious and the wildlife in it SHOUT STOP now before its to late.

  5. What a Scandal, It would be interesting to know how much the fish farming industry bungs the SNP in ‘Political Donations’

  6. been going on for near 40 years , note the plight of the sea trout in Loch Maree since the late 80’s, and the state of other west coast rivers

  7. This is far more serious than touching a reporter’s knee. If Fallon had to quit Westminster, either Roseanna Cunningham or Fergus Ewing should immediately be asked to resign for dereliction of duty

  8. Imagine the situation if the STCUK weren’t fighting for wild fish. The Scottish government’s priority seems to be exports of ‘salmon’ to China, whatever the effect upon the environment.

  9. It is deeply worrying that the industry has been allowing this blight on Scotland’s precious natural resource, while issuing denials which it knows to be false, and that the government, who should be the first to call them to account, have deliberately assisted the misinformation. A full apology is required together with provisional action to halt the damage pending completion of the inquiry.

  10. These figures should be shown to the outlets who sell their fish. With the general public being asked not to shop there until they remove the products or the fish farms clean up after heir act.

  11. The problem is not only the appalling fact that these lice- infested salmon enter our food supplies. There is
    the additional effect on wild sea trout: lice which drop off treated salmon in the sea loch cages migrate to the inshore habitat of sea trout, which have been virtually wiped out over the last decade.

    1. Just to reiterate – our campaign is purely about protecting wild salmon and sea trout from the impacts of salmon farming, particularly sea lice infestation and escapee farmed fish breeding with wild salmon and diluting gene pools. Sea lice are not a human health risk (as far as we know!) and, anyway, they are long gone from the farmed salmon product by the time it reaches the supermarket.

  12. Evening all and again this is why I will not buy salmon from a Scottish Salmon Farm and despite this report there is still not enough information of who is good and who is bad so until then they are all tarred with the same brush as far as I am concerned

  13. What happens to the home and export market when consumers realise whatnot is their purchase of Scottish farmed salmon which is encouraging bad practice and environmental damage on an unprecedented scale with resulting decimation of the wild salmon and sea trout stocks, with all the adverse economic impact that follows therefrom

  14. I congratulate you on your commitment and resolve to bring the true facts regarding salmon farming and its negative effect on wild fish to the public.

    I agree with Richard Mills.The Scottish government is all about money and not the environment.

  15. On the west coast of Shetland the 3 main sea trout locations of Brig of Walls [Brouster ] Weisdale [Kergord burn ] and Loch of Strom [ Sand water system ] are now almost devoid of Sea Trout .

  16. Well done S&TC.Why have there been no prosecutions or other enforcement action under the Aquaculture Act which was supposed to cover this sort of thing??

    1. Good question! We’ll put that to the Parliamentary Committee Inquiry next year – along with a host of other evidence we are collecting together…

  17. Sue the Scottish Government for corrupt dereliction of their duty. I’ll chip in.

  18. It wold be interesting to find out how many of our environmentally frendly MSPs have “interests” in these farming companies.
    They seem hell bent on protecting an unlawful industry – because it employs in poor employment areas and it exports. Any other industry which polluted or was as non environmental as this wold be publicly hounded by our Scottish Government. Nuclear – employs many – hounded. Coal power – employed many – hounded to extinction. Fish farming – what problem ? Dont know what you mean ? Boatmen and Ghillies and estate workers have already lost their jobs. Landowner and farmers incomes from fishing clubs have fallen or indeed stopped as members leave clubs with declining waters.
    We can complain all we like – OUR govenment will do exactly what they want – speed cameras, booze taxes – all to help us be healthier, cleaner (oh dear, not the fish farms)and to be like a Scandinavian country. We dont have the 30-odd percent Scandinavian taxation yet mind you – yet…

  19. Oops, sorry – my typing seems too fast for the word “would” ! Apologies.

  20. I can’t see a link to the full list. What are the salmon farms in Orkney waters like?

    1. We’ll check on Orkney for you – we did not publish the whole list, just the worst offenders!

  21. Scotlands wild stocks of salmon are fast depleting and this at the expense of farmed salmon that do not even taste good. Why the Scottish politicians allow this is beyond me… some have said for the Scottish economies benefit. Sad if true that wild salmon stocks are allowed to suffer to allow a government to increase exports. Even sadder when the biggest farmers (e.g. marine harvest) are not even Scottish companies. This is very fishy. Perhaps a sturgeon and salmond are behind it.

  22. Why are the people responsible not prosecuted for this environmental disaster and effective workable measures put in place immediately. They do know that the problems with sea lice can be eradicated using onshore containment and offshore containment facilities. The Government should act immediately as the Scottish Government has shown the utmost contempt.

  23. Sorry to be a bit patronising but I think Richard Mills was trying to say
    ‘It’s a disgrace. These farms should be shut down.’ I agree.

  24. Well done Andrew and Guy and all who are pursuing this national disgrace. Friends and I fished the Highlands and Islands over nearly thirty years, as visitors;the Hebrides, Orkney, and Loch Maree (in its heyday, mouthwatering!)and more recently, until 2010, Loch Hope, one of the last to fade away.I grieve at the selfishness of the industry that created a market by breaking all the rules and is now exploiting it behind a smokescreen of denial and prevarication. Efforts to influence the supermarkets have proved an uphill struggle with little real change of attitude. No doubt a profitable line. If other countries want to eat farmed salmon, why do they not grow their own? No doubt a bit of genetic tinkering would enable the salmon to grow to enormous sizes in reservoirs etc and the sea coastal waters allowed to recover. Keep up the good work.

  25. I understand, most of the salmon farms around the UK are Norwegian owned–Ironic then, that Norways government recently passed a law preventing new open cage salmon farms around its coast.—wake up SNP, shame on you!

  26. The long term answer is surely to ban sea cages in sensitive areas and move production into shore-based sea-water tanks, where water coming in and going out can be filtered to exclude sea lice. A subsidy for on-shore facilities would be appropriate.

  27. In response to post 6 – Tim – I agree it would be interesting to know who the donations go to…. see page 5 of the link 1 below – its shows that marine harvest is paying £41k in 2016 and £61k in 2015 to UK charities in donations and says these are not political…. but discloses no more.

    See also Link 2 for details of the which areas in scotland are ASC certified… the point here is that the bulk of farms in Scotland are not certified but are ‘under assessment’ and have been under assessment for several years. The reason given on the forms why assessments are still ongoing is …’Environmental challenge other than weather condition interfering with treatment’ Form your own view on what this means.

    Link 1:

    Link 2

  28. Interesting to note that Loch Duart Limited is 30% owned by Scottish Enterprise Glasgow, the old Development Agency.
    More profits to Loch Duart means more money for the Government quango!
    No surprise there,eh?

  29. The Scottish Salmon Company plc is registered in Jersey and 75% owned by a secretive Swiss investment organisation.

  30. I no longer eat ANY Scottish Salmon, because I can’t be sure it has come from a quality farm. Lets get the supermarkets to announce plans to do the same in advance of them doing it so the businesses can get their act together!

  31. What are the statutory sanctions for allowing higher levels of lice per salmon than is permitted? What action, if any, has been taken by the relevant authorities?Have any sea trout fisheries taken any legal action arising out of their losses?

    1. Very little action so far. If 3 female lice are found on farmed fish, the farm must produce a management plan to reduce numbers. Only when 8 lice are reached does the regulator step in, and even then there is not statutory requirement to insist, for instance, on early harvesting the farm. In the Faroe Islands, if 1.5 lice are counted on 3 successive visits, then the farm must compulsory slaughter and will only be allowed half the biomass on next year’s licence. As far as we are aware, not sea trout fishery has taken an action – it is almost impossible to say that those lice from that farm were responsible for the collapse

  32. This situation is so desperately sad. People like Mike Russell,now SNP Brexit Minister was at one time Environmental Minister during all these catastrophic events regarding Salmon farming, smugly says that the safeguards that were in place were adhered to, as we now see he was completely ignorant of the situation or complicit or funding changed hands. The SNP is famous for it’s ability to recognise a trough it can get it’s snout in.Russell is the man who wanted to be known as ‘The man who brought Beaver back to Scotland’ what a ****!

  33. I wish you all every success with this brilliant campaign and subsequent pressure on the Scottiish government.
    I hope that one day I Can return to salmon fishing on the west coast,of Scotland with a chance of catching something! I miss my trips there and find it hard to accept such a rapid decline in such a short timescale.

  34. At the end of the day unfortunately all the legislation and enforcement of regulations (or lack thereof) by government and other agencies isn’t really going to make a lot of difference. What DOES have an effect though is market forces! If consumers were more aware of this issue, then more pressure from those end users on retailers (ie if ordinary shoppers protested by not buying the stuff in the first place unless it was proven to be ethically and environmentally sustainable) might actually get things moving in the right direction. Is buying farmed salmon these days really any different from buying cheap clothing made by children in a third world sweat-shop, or industrially raised meat, or palm-oil? Probably not, but the vast majority of people only see the message ‘salmon and oily fish is ever so good for you and should be part of a healthy diet’.

  35. Whilst it is fair to name and shame those farms where live levels are substandard I think it is unreasonable to assume that salmon from these farms are necessarily fit for human consumption. Generally where lice levels are high action taken by fish farms to alleviate the problem often involves excessive use of antibiotics which will ultimately affect the quality of the flesh not to mention the dyes that are used to artificially colour the flesh. The best way to avoid any risk to human health is to avoid eating farmed salmon completely. There is plenty evidence to support this view.

    1. While we have every sympathy with what you say, we must clarify a widespread belief that lice are treated with antibiotics – they are not. However, the chemicals that are used are often extremely toxic, especially to the surrounding marine environment, and how much is stored in the salmon’s muscle and ingested when eaten by humans is not widely known. However, our battle is against the impact of lice on wild fish, and the only way to get rid of that threat completely is to move these farms into closed containment units. Not only will that better protect wild fish and the environment, we believe that taking away the need to treat for lice in closed tanks will be a better option for farmers, and also, presumably, safer for humans to eat farmed salmon. WE stress that we are not against salmon farming per se, but it must be truly sustainable – from all angles!

  36. Politicians will not solve this problem only the public will force the polluters to change their ways or better still go under. Lets take the next step and identify the polluters products BY BRAND.

  37. Hi Lauren will the salmon feed (pellets) also be looked into? To feed the millions of salmon in cages on these farms takes an awful lot of pellets made of what exactly? I believe sea fish are nowvbeing commercially netted to provide this farmed salmon food, this sort of destroys the argument that farmed fishing is ecologically better. When you realise that it takes 3 to 4 kg of pellets to put on 1kg of salmon flesh, times that by the millions of farmed salmon and the number of farms it’s staggering. No wonder sea bird numbers are falling puffins etc as the sand Eels and other small fish are being netted to produce salmon pellets.
    These farms are ruining the oceans and all that depends on it and must be stopped.
    Peter Mullins riverkeeper

    1. Feed content is certainly an issue but one which the industry is looking into, I believe. You are quite right that the present situation is unsustainable, let alone when the industry expands significantly, so unless the feed manufacturers find alternative methods of feeding salmon, it will be a limiting factor long term. However, S&TC’s battle in the short term is principally against sea lice from farms infesting and killing wild salmon and sea trout smolts. We have to influence greater regulatory responsibility from the Scottish Government through the Parliamentary Inquiry next year, and that is where our current resources are being targeted.

  38. I am so sad that the Scottish elected Government is so focused on ‘The Central Belt’ and its supporters that it pays such little attention to the remoter areas of its Electorate and the jobs that have been lost by its total negligence. Oh yes, the salmon farms bring a lot of money into the Scottish Economy, but at what price. Are the coastline and a Scottish rivers going to become devoid of salmonids due to some insane belief that game fishing is the prerogative of the rich.
    Get real, Mrs Sturgeon and get your Government to address such scandalous breaches of law. The environment has sustained us for many thousands of centuries. Why is the Scottish Government leading us into an environmental marine desert?

  39. Having read this I thougһt it was very informative.

    I appreciate you spеnding ѕоme time and effort to
    put this ѕhoгt article together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time
    both reading and commenting. Bᥙt so what, it was stilⅼ worth it!

  40. Same problem here in eastern Canada. River by my home (Nashwaak) has been closed to salmon fishing for about 20 years and I blame sea lice from farms.

  41. Welsh rivers, the past couple of years,have seen the lowest salmon returns since records began. Our smolts have to pass the 250 scottish salmon farms on the west coast (which also means clouds of sea lice) on their way to the feeding grounds of Greenland, and it’s clearly wiping them out. Sea trout have also seen huge declines across Wales, which is some of the best sea trout fishing in the U.K. If current trends persist, we won’t have any salmon or sea trout returning.

  42. Greetings! Vеry useful advice in this particular post!

    It’s the little changes that will make the lаrgest
    changes. Thanks for sharing!

  43. I live next to a freshwater loch on the west coast of Scotland (Loch Tralaig) and watch every day as Kames Fish Farm Ltd “treats” there salmon smolts with barrel after barrel of carcinogenic Formadehyde. The loch is now dead with no native brown trout at all and no wildlife all to line the pockets of a rich old man and a handfull of employees that carry out this disgrace that they call aquacuture. There fish are covered in open sores from a fungal disease saprolegnia that the bombard with chemicals every day and still take dustbins full to the brimm with rotten diseased fish. This loch will never recover and all they will di is move to the next loch untill its a toxic swamp as well.. Not only that but we have to endure blinding headaches sore throats and difficulty breathing every day unless we leave our home. This is all under the protection of SEPA that does nothing because they are funded with the money from granting them the licence to do this without any monitoring whatsover. They allow them to self monitor !!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.