Scottish salmon farm sea lice reporting

Salmon Farm Management

Fish health and welfare is vital for all salmon farmers. It is in everyone’s interests to ensure fish maintain good health.

Salmon farmers have committed to publish sea lice data on a farm by farm basis from 2018, building on existing reporting activities that have been in place for a number of years.

This new farm-level information will support further engagement with those stakeholders interested in fish health, while at the same time help to inform scientists about how farms might interact with the wider environment.

Sea lice and their management

Sea lice are parasites that naturally occur in the marine environment. They are also found in other salmon producing countries like Norway, Chile and Canada. Farmed fish are lice-free when they are put into Scottish sea water and lochs.

Salmon farmers want to produce healthy fish and keep lice numbers as low as possible. Regular detailed health checks of farmed salmon are made at least once a week and lice numbers and the life stages of any lice are recorded. Sharing information about farming activities with other farmers greatly helps the overall control of sea lice on farms and in production areas.

Farmers control sea lice using a range of techniques. These have been developed by the salmon farming industry as an “integrated sea lice management strategy”. The strategy encourages preventative techniques such as keeping fish of only one age group in a farm and fallowing farms after each production cycle. Salmon farmers may also use cleaner fish like wrasse and lumpfish which are reared alongside the salmon in their pens. These cleaner fish pick off and eat any lice they find. Medicines can be prescribed by a vet for use on farms and new technology also removes sea lice using, for example, warm water flushing.

This integrated approach to sea lice management ensures that farmers in Scotland co-ordinate their lice control strategies for maximum effectiveness. For example, where farms are close to one another, they will stock the same age class of fish and fallow their farms at the same time. This “area management” approach of working together with farming neighbours was pioneered in Scotland.

Sea lice information is published on a monthly basis, within the table below:

Lice averages – Jan 2018