The shocking video released has prompted widespread condemnation on social media and from animal welfare charities. It’s also prompted an investigation from authorities.
The footage on the journalism site, the Ferret, which shows “as many as 80 per cent of the salmon” suffering from sea lice damage at the Scottish Salmon Company site, Vacasay fish farm in Loch Roag, Scotland.
Corin Smith, a photographer and fly fishing guide from Perthshire, said he saw “hundreds” of infested salmon in one part of one cage.
We put several precise questions to the Scottish Salmon Company surrounding this event and we received this reply from their communication team.
“Fish health and welfare is fundamental to responsible salmon farming and we take this very seriously. However, as with any farmed stock, health challenges can occur and this can be exacerbated by higher temperatures.Sea lice are endemic in the wild and the warmer water temperatures has impacted incidences this summer. We are committed to responsible farming practices and stringent health management of our stock. Through ongoing investment and innovation, we are committed to working with academic and industry partners to finding long term sustainable solutions to tackle these industry-wide challenges.”
SalmonBusiness contacted the Scottish SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) who told us that they were investigating the video and site at Loch Roag.
In an email 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.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson told SalmonBusiness:
“We recognise how disappointed the Trust must be at the loss of wild salmon from the Blackwater river this year and know how important it is to the local eco system and economy. Marine Scotland are currently investigating concerns raised by a member of the public regarding lice at a fish farm in Lewis, and will be carrying out an inspection on the site imminently. We take submissions of this nature seriously, and are working to establish the facts on this case before coming to an informed position. The fish health framework and interaction group we have established are part of our response to addressing the environmental risks on wild salmon.”
We also reached out to several Scottish salmon farms. Gideon Pringle, Operations Director – Farming at Marine Harvest Scotland who wrote:
“I would be reluctant to comment on this video, as the image of the few individual fish targeted does not accurately represent the situation occurring in the Scottish Salmon farming industry, or at any of our farms. We have available a suite of very successful management tools to manage sea lice levels, and our latest levels, at the warmest part of the year, show no farms nearing the threshold levels that require notification to Marine Scotland.”
Finally we contacted representatives from the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation who have yet to send us a response.