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Salmon Farming’s “Foot-and-Mouth” – Scotland’s Secret Disease Epidemic Exposed

Press Release - 1st June 2004

Eight out of ten sea cage salmon farms are affected by a killer virus - Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN) - sweeping across Scotland. IPN not only poses a risk to farmed salmon (with mortality rates of up to 80%) but IPN-infected farmed escapees could expose wild fish stocks to the killer virus with catastrophic effects.

Don Staniford, Managing Director of the Salmon Farm Protest Group (SFPG), said: “Freshwater and marine salmon farms are acting as reservoirs for a host of deadly diseases. IPN-infected farmed salmon escapees have already been caught in Loch Eil and Loch Linnhe and it is estimated that thousands if not hundreds of thousands of infected farmed salmon have escaped from their cages over the last five years.”

Exclusive new information compiled by the SFPG names and shames those companies involved. The worst offenders are Marine Harvest, Scottish Sea Farms, Stolt and Lighthouse. Other companies include Landcatch, Loch Duart, Kinloch Damph, Western Isles Seafood Company, Kames, Orkney Sea Farms, Wester Ross, Lakeland, Aquascot, Shetland Norse, Johnson Sea Farms, Institute of Aquaculture Stirling, North Atlantic Fisheries College and Seafish Aquaculture.

IPN is now so prevalent that 82% of marine salmon farms in Scotland are affected (an increase from less than 30% in 1997 and 45% in 2000) compared to 26% of freshwater salmon farms. The worst hit areas are Shetland and Orkney (ca. 90% prevalence) and the Outer Hebrides (80%). Marine waters subject to disease restrictions in the last 12 months include Lochs Fyne, Eriboll, Roag, Ewe, Broom, Craignish, Sunart, Ainort, Seaforth, Portree, Alsh as well as the Sounds of Mull and Raasay. The Scottish Executive is planning to publish a full list of all farms affected – in the meantime view the latest figures now on The Salmon Farm Monitor: [1].

Don Staniford, Managing Director of the SFPG, said:

“The IPN disease epidemic is Scottish salmon farming’s ‘foot-and-mouth’ crisis. Infectious diseases are spreading like wildfire throughout the Scottish salmon farming sector. Salmon farms are fouling not only their own nest but disease-ridden escapees are also threatening wild fish populations across Scotland – sea trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, Arctic charr, halibut, cod, haddock, saithe, pollack, turbot as well as the endangered wild Atlantic salmon. The message to Scottish salmon farmers is crystal clear – clean up your act via closed containment systems or close down”

Since July 2001, the Scottish Executive has issued an estimated 446 Designated Area Orders (DAO) for IPN, Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD) and Furunculosis under the Diseases of Fish Act. An estimated 90% of all DAOs issued involve IPN with BKD and Furunculosis making up the remainder. A DAO is served where a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed – a Thirty Day Notice is served restricting the movement of live fish, eggs or gametes to or from the farm. If confirmed, farms are required to remove dead and dying fish and cages must be emptied, disinfected and left unused for a minimum of six weeks [2].

IPN has already cost the Scottish salmon farming industry over £5 million - £2 million in Shetland alone. Professor Ron Roberts, Technical Director of Landcatch Ltd, views IPN as a “much more serious pathogen” than Infectious Salmon Anaemia [3] – the ISA outbreak (1998-9) cost the industry £37million and 200 jobs. In May a £230,000 research project, backed by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council), the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture Genetic Research Group, Landcatch Ltd and the Roslin Institute, was announced. The IPN project aims to establish a reliable genetic test to determine the genetic potential of individual fish to resist IPN [4].

Notes to editors ...

For more information contact Don Staniford on 07880 716082