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Sea lice problems currently “horrendous” on many Scottish salmon farms

Shocking film 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 (see Video of the Week, Home page).

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.”

In its press release S&TC added: "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. It went on to stress that 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, appeared 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".

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.

The images 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.
S&TCS adds, "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?"

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.”
Currently, the monitoring and publication of sea lice numbers on salmon farms is entirely reliant on self-reporting by the salmon farmers themselves. The S&TCS concludes that independent monitoring of sea lice on salmon farms "is desperately needed".

The lice escalation reflects similar appalling conditions at Vacasay salmon farm on the Isle of Lewis in September 2018. Two months after which, in a damning report on the salmon farming industry, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was adamant that "'the ‘status quo’ in terms of regulation and enforcement is not acceptable.”

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