SALMON FARMING: Thousands of rotting salmon ‘stink out’ village after mass death at farm

Scottish Salmon Company farm suffers ‘sudden and unforeseeable bloom of micro-jellyfish’

Residents of Tayinloan said their village was 'stinking'.
Residents of Tayinloan in Argyll and Bute said their village was ‘stinking’.

STV News is reporting that thousands of salmon have been killed in a mass mortality event at a fish farm off the west coast of Kintyre.

The Scottish Salmon Company farm off the shore of the Isle of Gigha has suffered a major loss of life after a “sudden and unforeseeable bloom of micro-jellyfish”.

Jellyfish can sting fish leading to gill and skin injuries and eventually killing them.

Residents of Tayinloan, which sits on the coast of the Kintyre peninsula in Argyll and Bute opposite Gigha, said their village was “stinking” with lorries “spilling rotten fish fluid as they come up the hill”.

Fish removed from the pens at the Scottish Salmon Company farm off Gigha.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is investigating, while the Scottish Government said the Fish Health Inspectorate had inspected the fish farm.

A spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Agency said it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

The Scottish Salmon Company operates two sites in the Sound of Gigha, East Tarbet Bay and Druimyeon Bay.

The latter has received five “unsatisfactory” classifications in seabed surveys by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Results for 2020 have yet to be evaluated.

East Tarbet Bay received “unsatisfactory” and a “borderline” reports in 2006 and 2007, but has had “satisfactory” classifications since then, apart from in the latest survey in 2019 which is still to be evaluated.

Images of dead salmon being removed from the farm nets were and then inside open-topped trailers were captured by Corin Smith, founder of Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots.

He said: “Hundreds of thousands of dead and rotting fish, many more suffering a long lingering death, and tonnes of rotting fish dispersed into the sea.

The pens of the Scottish Salmon Company farm off the Isle of Gigha.

“As usual the Scottish Government seems to be the last to know and powerless to do anything about this company’s appalling environmental and welfare record.”

The Scottish Salmon Company said the fish were disposed of in accordance with regulations.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government takes fish welfare and health very seriously.

“We recently refreshed the focus of our 10-year Farmed Fish Health Framework to concentrate on areas that make a direct difference to farmed fish health and welfare including analysis of causes of mortality and the development of treatments, which will help us to better understand and prepare for these environmental events. “

Dead fish from the Scottish Salmon Company farm off Gigha fill two trailers.

A spokesperson for The Scottish Salmon Company said the health and welfare of fish was fundamental to responsible salmon farming.

“However, as with any farmer, operating in the natural environment brings unique biological challenges such as the sudden and unforeseeable bloom of micro-jellyfish which occurred recently at our Gigha site,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this has caused fish mortalities which we are disposing of in line with regulations and reporting as standard practice in the industry.”

Meanwhile, on Friday evening, The Ferret published this report:

Over one in ten of Scotland’s fish farms have been rated as “unsatisfactory” by the Scottish Government’s environmental watchdog because of pollution, pesticide and reporting breaches, The Ferret can reveal.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has assessed over 40 of some 400 salmon farms around the coast as either “very poor”, “poor” or “at risk” because they broke, or threatened to break, environmental rules in 2019.

Campaigners have accused the £1bn industry of treating the seas as “sewers”, and called for discharges from salmon cages to be contained. Fish farming was damaging Scotland’s environmental reputation, they argued.

Salmon companies pointed out that nearly nine out of ten farms had met “tough environmental standards” in 2019. There had been an “upward trend in environmental compliance” in recent years, they said.

The publication of Sepa’s environmental compliance assessments for 2019 has suffered prolonged delays due to the pandemic and a cyber attack. Draft data posted online by criminal hackers has been analysed and verified by The Ferret.

The data suggests that fish farming is one of Scotland’s most polluting industries, after the waste and water industries. The 40 plus fish farms scattered around the highlands and islands assessed as unsatisfactory for 2019 include hatcheries as well as salmon cages in lochs, and are operated by different companies.

According to Sepa, many of them have breached environmental limits on discharges of pesticides and wastes, putting wildlife at risk. Many have also failed to report compliance data in time.

Correspondence released under freedom of information law shows that some of the alleged breaches involve the toxic pesticide, emamectin, which is used to kill the lice that can infest farmed fish. Companies, however, have often disputed Sepa’s assessments, arguing that they shouldn’t be rated as poor.

Pictures by Corin Smith

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