400 thousand salmon died in sea cages in Iceland in June

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Experts speculate that algal blooms may be to blame for spike in mortality.

In an article appearing in today’s edition of Icelandic newspaper, Fréttablaðið, using figures from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), it has been claimed that 400,000 salmon died in the country’s fish pens in June alone.

This equates to a threefold increase on the same calendar month last year and represents 2.52 per cent of total salmon in the companies’ pens that month.

Gísli Jónsson, a veterinarian at MAST, told Fréttablaðið that unusual reductions in salmon in sea cages have many explanations. He points out that algae blooms were responsible for large numbers of salmon deaths earlier this spring.

“We noticed that when the algae started to crawl, there were increased losses in the pens,” said Jónsson. “The main thing is that there are no infectious diseases in circulation and there have been no such thing.”

Jónsson says he expects attrition to increase in line with increased production.

Icelandic salmon farming has grown very fast in recent years. With production in 2020 about ten times higher than just five years ago, or 34,341 tonnes compared to 3,260 in 2015.

Mortality in sea cages is usually much higher in the first three months of the year, which are the colder than in summer. In January this year, the mortality was 0.7 per cent, 2.06 per cent in February and 1.3 per cent in March.