Sea lice rampant on salmon farms

Shocking photos show sea lice rampant on salmon farms in Scotland

Shocking footage passed to Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland reveals horrendous sea lice parasite problems currently occurring on salmon farms in Argyll & Bute, Skye and the Outer Hebrides.

The appalling conditions documented on Vacasay salmon farm on the Isle of Lewis in September 2018 (https://theferret.scot/sick-salmon-scottish-fish-farm-film/) are now being repeated at numerous locations.

Loch Creran, Oct 2020

In its damning report on the salmon farming industry in November 2018, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was adamant that “the ‘status quo’ in terms of regulation and enforcement is not acceptable.”

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS), said:

“The images and footage passed to us are truly shocking. It seems that little, if anything, has changed, since the 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry, in the way that salmon farms are managed to address escalating sea lice parasite issues. The Scottish Government has failed to introduce a proper regime of regulation and enforcement on salmon farms and consequently parasite and disease issues are being allowed to run riot.”

One of the most severely affected salmon farms, in Loch Creran, is owned by Scottish Sea Farms Ltd. The company is the exclusive supplier of farmed salmon to Marks & Spencer. Recent treatments at the farm, including Thermolicing (passing the farmed salmon through heated water to shock the sea lice off the salmon) and bathing the fish in Hydrogen Peroxide, appear to have had minimal effect. Indeed, large numbers of mature sea lice are clearly visible in the footage which was shot on 22 October, shortly after these treatments.

View sample footage: HERE

PROBLEMS ARE NATIONWIDE

Investigators who passed the footage to S&TC have documented severe sea lice eruptions concurrently at salmon farms near Oban, Lochgilphead, Dunvegan, Broadford, Loch Maddy and Loch Boisdale. No investigations were conducted on Orkney or Shetland.

These images from a salmon farm on Skye captured on 26 October, show the horrific injuries sea lice parasites may cause when they are left for weeks to eat the skin of the farmed salmon and expose large areas of flesh.

Skye, Oct 2020

 

While S&TCS’ focus is the health of populations of wild salmonid fish, it is clear that sea lice inflicting such damage to farmed salmon means that farms are simply not being managed properly and that is bound to have knock-on effects on wild fish.

 

Nick Measham, CEO of Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, said:

“Badly managed fish farms have severe implications for wild fish, especially when salmon farmers allow sea lice numbers to run out of control.

Anyone with a shred of decency should be sickened by the condition and suffering of these farmed fish. Will the UK really be able to claim it has higher animal welfare standards than other countries such as the US when the Scottish Government allows this to happen?  How does this type of image sit with claims being made over farmed animal welfare in advance of UK-US trade talks?"

Independent monitoring of sea lice on salmon farms is desperately needed.

The monitoring and publication of sea lice numbers on salmon farms is entirely reliant on self-reporting by the salmon farmers themselves.

Andrew Graham-Stewart added: 

"We have no doubt that the appalling lack of control over sea lice on salmon farms will continue until such time as Scottish Government introduces a rigorous regime of independent monitoring and verification. Without such a regime, farms will continue to be run ‘out of sight and out of mind’ of the regulators, with devastating consequences for Scotland’s wild salmon and sea trout.” 

Ends

Issued by comms@salmon-trout.org (T: 07463 576892).

Notes for editors

1) Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) was established as the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, S&TC UK has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment for the public benefit. S&TC UK has charitable status in both England and Scotland (as S&TCS) and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by robust evidence from its scientific network, and to take the widest possible remit in protecting wild salmonid fish stocks and the aquatic environment upon which they depend. www.salmon-troutscotland.org

2) What is the problem with sea lice? (https://salmon-trout.org/projects/salmon-farming/Background levels of these parasites occur naturally in the sea. However, the advent of salmon farming, particularly in fjordic or largely enclosed 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 very large breeding reservoir producing huge numbers of mobile juvenile sea lice that move out into the local marine environment. The consequences for wild salmon and sea trout smolts, the metamorphosing fragile skin of which is not adapted to cope with more than a few lice, as they migrate from local rivers to sea can be devastating. 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. Badly infested wild 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.