Salmon dying in major disease outbreak  12/10/12

A major disease outbreak is threatening to devastate fish farms across the Western Isles.

Some farms are losing up to 20% of fish which are being choked to death by a parasite.

Incidents of Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD) appeared in Loch Roag on Lewis last summer and is now rife across the islands.  

The parasite attacks the gills causing swelling and mucus. The fish struggles to breath and suffocates.

Millions of fish are dying. The disease is widespread across Scotland’s fish farms and has hit virtually every sea farm in the islands.

The Western Isles-based Scottish Salmon Company reckons it could lose 1,000 tonnes of fish, which, if replicated across the industry, would mean a loss of nearly £17 million at wholesale prices.

Unless the shock spread of the parasite is brought under control, it risks devastating a number of farms and wrecking next year’s production.

Critics say the hungry expansion of fish farms and over-crowding of salmon in pens means the disease has exploded because the fish are crammed together in an environment they are not naturally designed for.

Island fishermen are worried that vast quantities of hydrogen peroxide, often used as bleach and in cleaning chemicals, is being pumped into sea lochs and important fishing grounds after treating farmed salmon for the disease.

The protozoan parasite neoparamoeba perurans appeared in Scotland only in the last year or so but is now colonising fish farms and creating serious havoc with the industry.

Numbers exploded this summer - said to be due to sea water in lochs around the Scottish coast being saltier than usual.