Disturbing lice salmon video sparks huge animal welfare concerns

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A shocking video released by a photographer and the investigative journalist site, the Ferret, has prompted an investigation from authorities.

The video was shot for 20 minutes underwater at a fish farm inside a cage at Vacasay fish farm in Loch Roag. The photographer estimated that “as many as 80 per cent of the salmon” at the site were suffering from lice damage. He also said he saw “hundreds” of infested salmon in one part of one cage.

The farm is said to belong to Scottish Salmon Company.

The video shot on 27 August 2018 by Perthshire photographer and fly fishing guide, Corin Smith as published by The Ferret.

Mr Smith said that he first used a drone on 22 August to film the fish farm from the air.

“I was alarmed at the obvious high state of distress of the fish on the farm and could observe mortalities on the surface,” he told the site.

The footage shows several salmon in severely covered in sea lice.

He estimated that as many as 80 per cent of the salmon at Vacasay were suffering from lice damage. He said he saw “hundreds” of infested salmon in one part of one cage.

“I am forty years old, twenty years born and raised on a working hill sheep farm. I am still an active member of the agricultural community. I am not squeamish or hysterical about the rearing of animals for food,” he told The Ferret.

“But I have never in my life witnessed such extensive animal suffering, and over such a long period. At least 40 per cent of stock need euthanised immediately on the grounds of compassion. Any responsible farmer would do that.”

He added: “I am sure the workers on the farm feel the same themselves, but policies and procedures seem to be preventing them from doing anything. Quite how this level of suffering and cruelty can be permitted is beyond me.”

The Ferret said that The Scottish Salmon Company “has facilitated visits by SSPCA inspectors but it said it had not had an opportunity to authenticate the video, but accepted that mortalities had been “exacerbated” by the warm summer.

In an email to SalmonBusiness, Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “we can confirm we were alerted to a salmon farm on the Isle of Lewis and our enquiries are currently on-going.”

SalmonBusiness has contacted the Scottish Salmon Company for comment.