Scotland’s animal campaigns charity OneKind has released a new report which highlights the serious animal welfare issues surrounding the use of cleaner fish as a treatment for sea lice on salmon farms in Scotland.
Both wild-caught and farmed cleaner fish (mainly lumpsuckers and ballan wrasse) are used by the salmon farming industry in Scotland to eat sea lice that infest salmon confined in sea cages. They are used as an alternative to the chemical and mechanical treatments for sea lice, which also cause severe problems for farmed salmon.
OneKind’s new report Cleaner fish welfare on Scotland’s salmon farms is the charity’s third report on salmon farming this year and it raises yet more welfare concerns regarding the planned expansion of the salmon farming industry in Scotland.
The report exposes numerous welfare problems including high mortality rates, the need to provide supplementary food and shelter, and negative interactions with other fish. Remarkably, studies have shown that there are also personality variations among lumpsuckers meaning that not all fish will actually perform a sea lice cleaning role on salmon farms.
OneKind Director Bob Elliot said:
“Millions of cleaner fish are used by the salmon farming industry each year, and yet, despite this, their welfare is often forgotten.
“Our report aims to bring together the current information on cleaner fish welfare on salmon farms in Scotland which we hope will improve welfare standards across the industry. It’s clear that there are still huge gaps in the data and information available and welfare concerns like high mortality, disease and need for supplementary food and shelter urgently need to be addressed.
In 2016, 1.5 million farmed cleaner fish were used on Scottish salmon farms, and it is predicted to rise to 10 million individuals used in UK in 2020 . It is also thought that up to a million wrasse each year are caught for the salmon farming industry in Scotland .
OneKind’s report outlines several recommendations including a moratorium on the use of cleaner fish until their welfare is safeguarded through increased research, development of detailed welfare standards and increased collection and publication of data.
Bob Elliot continued:
“OneKind remains very concerned regarding the seemingly endless welfare issues concerning the expansion of salmon farms in Scotland. Rather than pausing and considering solutions, ever more intensive techniques are being deployed to manage the sea lice, overcrowding and disease problems. Our report shows that cleaner fish seem to be being used in ever greater numbers with very little scrutiny regarding their welfare.
“The use of cleaner fish should be halted until standards that protect their welfare are developed and enforced, and until these standards can be shown to be effective so that cleaner fish are able to live good lives worth living.”
Notes to editor:
- Cleaner fish figures from an FOI request to Marine Scotland available here.
- Farmed cleaner fish figures from Marine Conservation Society, Use of cleaner fish in salmon farming: Current use, concerns and recommendations
- OneKind is Scotland’s leading animal campaigns charity working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals. OneKind works to expose cruelty and persecution through investigations and research covering Scotland’s wildlife, farm animals and pets. Find out more about our work at onekind.scot
- Read OneKind’s new report Cleaner fish welfare on Scotland’s salmon farms here.
- Read OneKind’s report Fish welfare on Scottish salmon farms here.
- Read OneKind’s report The welfare status of salmon farms and companies in Scotland here.