Salmon farming in crisis with rising sea lice, and escalating use of chemicals

Lepeophtheirus salmonis, or the common salmon louse, now infests nearly half of Scotland’s salmon farms. Last year lice killed thousands of tonnes of farmed fish, caused skin lesions and secondary infections in millions more, and cost the Scottish industry alone around £300m in trying to control them. Scotland has some of the worst lice infestations in the world, and last year saw production fall for the first time in years. But in the past few weeks it has become clear that the lice problem is growing worldwide and is far more resistant than the industry thought. Norway produced 60,000 tonnes less than expected last yearbecause of lice, and Canada and a dozen other countries were all hit badly. Together, it is estimated that companies across the world must spend more than £1bn a year on trying to eradicate lice, and the viruses and diseases they bring. As a result of the lice infestations, the global price of salmon has soared, and world production fallen. Earlier this year freedom of information [FoI] requests of the Scottish government showed that 45 lochs had been badly polluted by the antibiotics and pesticides used to control lice – and that more and more toxic chemicals were being used.

“Sea lice are a natural phenomenon,” says Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish salmon producers association. “All livestock on farms, terrestrial or marine, are encountering some kind of parasite or tick, and they’re dealt with. And that’s part of livestock farming. We are no different to terrestrial farms. Problems come and go, depending on biology and the environment. The louse is a hardy parasite. It’s a challenge for Chile and Norway, too. We are spending a lot on all sorts of things.”The salmon-farming industry, which has grown at breakneck speed since the 1970s, knows it has a huge problem, but insists it sees the lice as unwelcome guests that will soon be evicted rather than permanent residents. Rather than dwell on the lice, industry leaders point to the fact that in just 40 years, aquaculture has gone from providing 5% of the world’s fish to nearly 50%, and in Scotland, from a few hundred tonnes of salmon a year to more than 177,000 tonnes in 2015. They argue that new methods to control infestations are being developed and the chemicals being used are safe and degrade quickly, adding that they expect to have found a solution within a few years.
The global companies that dominate ownership of the farms, buoyed by high prices and growing worldwide demand, are confident that they will find solutions. Marine Harvest, the giant Norwegian multinational that grows 40,000 tonnes of salmon in its many Scottish farms, said this week that it needs to develop more effective ways to combat lice. The use of the toxic drug emamectin rising fast, but also that the industry had persuaded the Scottish environmental protection agency to withdraw a ban planned for next year. Other papers showed that the levels of chemicals used to kill sea lice have breached environmental safety limits more than 100 times in the last 10 years. The chemicals have been discharged into the waters by 70 fish farms run by seven companies.
FoI documents  show that the Scottish industry wants to “innovate” by building the world’s biggest salmon farm, which would triple the size of the largest now in operation. It could farm 2m fish at a time, and create as much waste as a city the size of Glasgow. The anwwer to the inevitable lice problems, say environmentalists, is to move the farms further offshore into deeper, colder waters, where lice are less able to survive, or to even put them on land, where they could be better controlled. But this would add greatly to industry costs and require investments of billions of pounds. In the meantime, the companies are using mechanical ways to trim the lice from the fish. These range from pumping the fish through water hot enough to make the lice let go of their hosts, to churning them as if in a washing machine. Both are condemned by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, and are known to be expensive and not always effective. Last year the heating of the water on a Skye fish farm led to the accidental slaughter of 95,000 fish. Another 20,000 died in another incident.

Further information:


EU Project GOUV’AIRNANCE reduces Mediterranean air pollution through measurements and integrated governance for Tripoli, Aqaba , Valencia and Marseille


An EU-funded cross-border cooperation project – GOUV’AIRNANCE – is working on monitoring air pollution in four Mediterranean cities: Aqaba in Jordan, Tripoli in Lebanon, Marseille in France, and Valencia in Spain. Different pilot solutions have been implemented including the launch of Air-Marseille, an online platform that provides real time measurements of air quality and offers advice on what to do during pollution peaks. Although the pilot projects have a local impact, the cross-border nature of GOUV’AIRNANCE means that experience and knowledge are shared more widely.
GOUV’AIRNANCE aims to reduce urban air pollution in the Mediterranean by the establishment of means of measurements and an integrated territorial governance of air quality in four Mediterranean cities: Tripoli (Lebanon), Aqaba (Jordan), Valencia (Spain) and Marseille (France). The project’s objective is reducing the health impact of air pollution in these cities, thanks to a better understanding of air quality in each area and information for citizens, including sensitive populations. The project also proposes to promote the integration of emission reduction measures as an essential dimension of sustainable urban planning documents.
The ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme 2007/2013 is a multilateral cross-border cooperation programme funded by the European Union under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. It aims at reinforcing cooperation between the EU and partner countries’ regions located along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Further Information:
 GOUV’AIRNANCE project website
 ENPI CBCMED – website
 Cross-border cooperation – fiche
 EU Neighbourhood Info Centre interview – Working across borders to bring people together

SOER 2015 — The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Source: EEA

The synthesis report informs future European environmental policy in general and its implementation between 2015 and 2020 in particular. It includes a reflection on the European environment in a global context, as well as chapters summarising the state of, trends in, and prospects for the environment in Europe.

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Galapagos emergency over stranded ship with hazardous contents (including 45,000 litres of oil)

Ecuador has announced a state of emergency in the Galapagos Islands, a week after a cargo ship with hazardous materials ran aground there. The Floreana – which ferries food and other supplies to the Unesco world heritage site – was also carrying 45,000 litres (10,000 gallons) of fuel. Booms have been used to contain a fuel spill in the pristine waters.

The islands – famous for their unique flora and fauna – lie some 1,000km (600 miles) off Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The emergency “will allow authorities to have immediate [financial] means to deal with the situation”, a Galapagos National Park spokesman told the AFP news agency.

The ship’s hull was reportedly destroyed in the incident on 28 January. Rescue teams are now trying to refloat and remove the vessel. This is not the first such incident. Last year, another cargo ship ran aground. And in 2001, an oil spill devastated marine iguana populations.

Video of Galapagos Islands

Further information

BBC news article, Galapagos emergency over stranded ship

Daily News  article: State of emergency declared in Galápagos: Ship with hazardous materials runs aground and could threaten islands’ unique ecosystem

Streetview of Galapagos Islands:
In partnership with the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation, Streetview has 360-degree images from the Galapagos Islands.  Now, you can visit the islands from anywhere you may be, and see many of the animals that Darwin experienced on his historic and groundbreaking journey in 1835.