Yesterday, the Ferret published photos of disease and sea lice-ridden, deformed and stunted farmed salmon. These photos were taken during Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) diagnostic inspections following instances of mass mortalities on fish farms. During these inspections FHI inspectors will sample between 3 and 10 salmon to perform post-mortems on, to determine the causes of mortalities on site. Photos are taken during these post-mortems to help the FHI with their diagnostics, and reveal some pretty gruesome stuff…
Sea lice damage
Sea lice feed on the scales, flesh and tissue of fish. The photos show the extent of the damage they can cause, for example at Ardintoul one fish was described as having skin loss on the head following high lice burdens. At the farm Raineach, all four fish sampled were described as having “severe lice damage to their heads”.
Damage from strong tidal currents
Many salmon farms in Scotland encounter problems with storms or strong tidal currents. These can harm salmon as they can result in fish being pushed against the side of the cages. This can create physical damage to salmon, as shown at the site Ardmaddy, where inspectors described seeing fish with “rubbed sides, which is thought to be caused by the strong tidal currents”.
Damage from handling
Handling can cause damage to fish as it can result in the loss of scales, and the development of lesions. At the fish farm Scotasay, salmon were seen with lesions which were attributed “to handling during a recent freshwater treatment”.
Salmon with severe eye damage, or no eyes
On inspection of the farm Leinish, inspectors removed four fish for diagnostic sampling, all of which were described as being lethargic. Two of the salmon were found to have cataracts- a common problem with farmed salmon. Even more shocking was that inspectors also found a salmon with no eyes.
Many reports by the FHI note seeing “anorexic fish”, in poor body condition. Such fish were seen at the site Maol Ban. These fish were also described as “poor doing fish”, which are also referred to by previous research unsympathetically as “loser fish”. These are fish that have poor body quality and are less active.
Salmon with spinal deformities
Spinal deformities are common in farmed salmon and are thought to be caused by multiple things such as genetics, parasites, pollution and injury during husbandry. At the farm Vuiabeag, one of the salmon removed for sampling is described as having scoliosis, which would have hindered their swimming ability.
Salmon with deformed hearts
Research has previously shown that farmed salmon have deformed heart shapes, meaning the heart is not as effective as doing its “job”. Some of the photos support this research, for example at Port na Cro, one of the sampled fish was described as having a “slightly deformed heart”.
As well as the obvious physical damage shown in the photos, FHI inspectors found that fish were suffering from a number of disease, including amoebic gill disease, salmon gill poxvirus and cardiomyopathy syndrome. Bacterial infections were also documented. At the farm Scotasay, one fish was described as having “an open skin wound” which was “further compromised by a mixed bacterial infection”.
Let’s not forget that salmon feel pain. Scientific evidence for this can be seen in their neural biology and their behaviour. Whilst these photos are not representative of all salmon within the farming industry in Scotland, they show that farming can cause severe harm to farmed salmon. The individuals in these photos would have suffered, and this is unacceptable. Fish can no longer be the forgotten animal, it is time for the salmon farming industry to seriously improve welfare standards on Scottish salmon farms.