(Sea lice infested salmon)
Below the waves in some of Scotland’s most beautiful coastlines, there’s a serious welfare problem playing out on Scotland’s salmon farms. Scotland’s farmed salmon suffer terribly, so here’s five reasons why you should take a stand against this cruelty and leave salmon off your plate this Christmas.
High mortality rates
Mortality rates on Scotland’s salmon farms are high. While mortality rates of around 1.5% are to be expected on salmon farms, higher mortality rates can be an indicator of suffering, as deaths are rarely instantaneous and rather are due to welfare issues, such as disease and sea lice. In 2017, around 11 million salmon died prematurely on Scotland’s salmon farms. In 2018, on one salmon farm alone, Mowi, more than 700,000 salmon died prematurely in just 3 months.
Sea lice infestations
Sea lice feed on the skin, scales, tissues and mucous layer of salmon, causing the development of lesions and loss of scales and ultimately even death. So – called “death crowns” can also be created by sea lice, where the flesh on the head of the fish is exposed.
Heavy infestation of sea lice also can lead to increased levels of stress in farmed salmon. This chronic stress compromises the welfare of fish by increasing the likelihood of further infection and reducing their growth rate.
Farmed salmon can suffer from a wide range of disease due to the crowded conditions in which they live. Environmental conditions can also increase the prevalence of disease, with warmer waters leading to new and complex gill issues, and reducing generation times for disease and sea lice.
High levels of stress in the salmon, caused from sea lice infestations, and its treatment, handling, crowding, mean that farmed salmon are also increasingly susceptible to infection.
Treatment for sea lice and disease
Treatments for sea lice and disease can do more harm than good, exposing salmon to harsh chemicals or harsh mechanical treatments, causing stress, physical injury and death.
A key example of a harsh mechanical treatment is the Thermolicer, where fish are placed in higher water temperatures to kill sea lice. Salmon are crowded into one area to be pumped into Thermolicer, which may expose them to abrasive surfaces that can cause them physical damage. In just one incident at Score Holms in 2017, 10,619 salmon died following a Thermolicer treatment.
Farmed salmon may also be exposed to bleach to treat sea lice. While it has been praised as environmentally-friendly, exposure to this chemical can cause the fish stress and damage to the mucosal barriers of the skin, gills and gut.
Escapes from salmon farms are frequent, with 300,000 salmon escaping in 2017. Salmon that escape are poorly adapted to a life in the wild and will suffer. Escaped farmed salmon also interbreed with wild individuals, creating offspring with reduced fitness, which causes severe population declines of wild salmon.
Between 2013-2017, the greatest cause of escapes was human error.
But what can I eat instead?
Check out our blog post on the range of tasty vegan salmon alternatives! And please take a minute to sign our petition calling for a moratorium on the expansion of Scotland’s salmon farming industry until key welfare issues are addressed and salmon can have lives worth living.