Alarming Health Issues Continue in World’s Salmon Farms in 2016



Farmed Atlantic salmon, instead of wild salmon, may be the best source of Omega 3s in the future but severe problems continue to plague the industry costing jobs and money. Here’s a breakdown of the myriad disease and environmental issues affecting the main farmed salmon producing nations.

1. CHILE: The world’s second largest producer lost $800 million dollars and 20% of their production in 2016 due to a serious algae bloom (Red Tide). The dreaded and deadly virus, Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA), was also detected. “ISA may be characterized by severe anemia, ascites (accumulation of fluid in the body cavity), hemorrhage in internal organs and darkening of the liver. Fish also tend to appear lethargic with pale gills and blood spots in the eyes”. Overuse of antibiotics, to treat the bacteria (Piscirickettsiosis SRS) that causes “lesions, and hemorrhaging in infected fish, and swells their kidneys and spleens, eventually killing them,” prompted the government to investigate and propose limits on their use.

2. SCOTLAND: Formerly a blue ribbon supplier under the name Loch Duarte, Scotland has horrible sea lice, industrial pollutants and toxic water, due to the meal fed to the penned salmon, reported scientists on 10 October 2016 in The U.K.Guardian.

3. BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA: B.C. is suffering a devastating reduction in wild sockeye salmon returns due to escapes, toxic water, Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA), and sea lice from farmed salmon net pens located in the Fraser River, a main wild salmon passage.

4. NORWAY: Farmed salmon from Norway recently was declared not safe for children or pregnant women because of ISA, parasites and large amount of toxins in waters around and under farming pens, according to scientist and international experts. Norway, the originator of commercial Atlantic salmon farming in the 1960s, and the world’s leading producer, is under attack from scientists and environmentalists.

The industry and government agencies defend the practices and pooh-pooh the critics. Toxic pollutants are on and underneath the pens’ water. This is cause for great concern among environmentalists and critics. Excess food, urine and feces float and collect on the ocean bottom. Norwegian scientists claim there is as much as 15 feet of waste in some areas. These pollutants seriously affect the wild salmon that swim through the muck. “However, what has emerged as a larger issue in this commingling of species is the increase in sea lice...found on juvenile wild salmon migrating through areas near salmon farms, whose crowded conditions provide an ideal breeding ground for sea lice.” Sea lice are tiny crustaceans naturally occurring in the oceans for millennia. When mature, they attach to adult salmon by suction, and feed off the skin, blood and mucus.

However, on wild salmon, the parasite falls off during their migration in freshwater rivers to spawn. These lice were not a significant problem until the introduction of salmon farming. Most farming pens are located in quiet fiords and inlets where the fish remain until they are harvested. The lice infect the salmon, spreading it throughout the population, causing deformation and death. In most cases the lice are removed from farmed fish with questionable chemicals. Another scenario is farming lumpfish which predate on the lice. This latter solution is only practiced by very few salmon farmers.

For these, and other misgivings, Alaska and California are the only West Coast states that do not allow marine salmon farming. More government oversight, stricter regulations, certification, and better management practices have improved the health of farmed salmon, but there are no consistent standards. Rapidly increasing numbers and expansion of farms makes universal improvements very difficult.