OneKind believes it’s time for radical change to Scotland's salmon farming industry, so that farmed salmon are given quality lives. Until this happens, there should be no further expansion of this industry.
The salmon farming industry likes to talk up its ‘quality’ product to drive sales. But they never talk about the lives of the tens of millions of farmed salmon. Perhaps that’s because they know consumers would turn their back on them if they knew the reality of life for a farmed salmon in Scotland.
OneKind believes it’s time for radical change, so that farmed salmon are given quality lives. Until this happens, there should be no further expansion of this industry.
There are just over 250 Atlantic salmon farms in Scotland, producing over 37 million salmon in 2018. The Scottish Government is committed to growth targets to double production by 2030. This is despite clear evidence that salmon on farms in Scotland are suffering.
What are the key welfare issues?
More than 10 million salmon died during the production cycle in 2019: the highest number of premature deaths recorded by the industry. There are many factors that cause such high mortality rates. Salmon on farms in Scotland are stocked at high densities, in environments with no or little enrichment, and are exposed to sea lice, disease, predators and bad weather amongst other things.
Sea lice are parasites that feed on the flesh, scales and tissues of salmon. This leaves tissue exposed, causing pain and creating an entrance for disease, as well as causing stress and mortality. Sea lice burdens on salmon farms have been as high as 29.5 average adult female sea lice per fish.
Diseases are prevalent across salmon farms. They include Cardiomyopathy syndrome which impacts the heart muscle of salmon, leaving them weak and fragile; Amoebic Gill Disease, where parasites cause death via asphyxiation and Infectious Salmon Anaemia, which has no cure, meaning that infected fish must be slaughtered. In 2016, over 100,000 salmon died from Amoebic Gill Disease over a period of 10 weeks.
Sadly, treatments for sea lice and disease often do more harm than good, exposing salmon to harsh chemicals or harsh mechanical treatments, causing stress, physical injury and death. A key example of this is the Thermolicer, whereby fish are exposed to high water temperatures, abrasive surfaces, and severe crowding. Mortalities can be high, in one incident, 10,619 salmon died following Thermolicer treatment.
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, which creates offspring with reduced fitness, which causes severe population declines of wild salmon.
Welfare impacts: not just salmon
It is not just farmed salmon that are impacted by salmon farming in Scotland. Cetaceans such as harbour porpoise are excluded from their habitat by acoustic deterrent devices intended to scare seals away, crustaceans are damaged by chemicals used and declines in wild salmon and trout numbers have been linked to salmon farming.
Cleaner fish are used as an alternative “treatment” for sea lice, as they pick off and eat them from salmon. However, they too suffer on salmon farms from aggression, disease, and treatment damage. Most are not thought to survive the production cycle, and if they do they are disposed of by the industry to minimise the spread of disease.
What is OneKind doing?
OneKind began working on this area in 2018 and has already started to make the voice of Scotland’s farmed salmon heard:
- In February and April 2018, we contributed to two Scottish Parliamentary Inquiries on salmon farming in Scotland, urging that fish welfare was kept at the centre of the discussion
- Our contributions to the ECCLR inquiry helped ensure that there was some consideration of welfare in their report on the environmental impacts of salmon farming
- In June 2018, we presented the key issues on welfare on salmon farms in Scotland to the Cross-Party Group for Animal Welfare
- In August 2018, we released two reports on the salmon farming industry titled Fish welfare on Scotland’s salmon farms and The welfare status of Scottish salmon farms and companies in 2017. We also launched our petition calling for a moratorium on the expansion of Scotland’s salmon farming industry until welfare issues are addressed.
- In December 2018, we released a report Cleaner fish welfare on Scotland’s salmon farms.
- In June 2020, the Scottish Government announced it would ban the killing, injuring and taking of seals in Scotland. We had long campaigned for this ban.
- In March 2021 we released a joint salmon farming report with Compassion in World Farming, “Underwater cages, parasites, and dead fish”.
We want to increase our impact to improve the welfare of farmed fish, and other animals impacted by the salmon farming industry. We are therefore, calling for a moratorium, with our partners the Scottish Salmon Think-Tank, Save Seil Sound, and the Salmon Aquaculture Reform Network Scotland (SARNS), on the growth of the salmon farming industry. We believe that expanding the industry without resolving these issues will only mean more environmental damage and more suffering. Sign our petition now!
We believe that a moratorium on all growth of the industry should be introduced until the industry passes two tests:
- Farmed salmon and cleaner fish have good lives that are worth living.
- The industry does not cause suffering to wild animals native to Scottish waters, including seals, cetaceans and wild salmon and trout.
How can I help Scotland’s salmon?
- Sign our petition calling for a moratorium in plans to expand the salmon farming industry in Scotland until animal welfare issues have been addressed.
- Contact your MSP and/or the Cabinet Secretary and ask them to support our calls for a halt to plans to double the salmon farming industry by 2030.
- Order a salmon farming campaign pack and start campaigning.