Press Release – Salmon Farms Report 85% Drop in Profits From New Disease

Salmon Gill Disease

Marine Harvest’s Bantry Bay salmon have gill disease.

Salmon farms all around Ireland and Scotland have been hit by amoebic gill disease [AGD] causing profits to plummet. First recognised in Ireland in the summer of 2010, the AGD parasite causes fish to choke to death.

Marine Harvest Ireland the country’s leading producer of farmed salmon, have reported a drop in Q3 earnings of 85%. Earnings fell from €2.7 million [NOK 20 million] in the third quarter of 2011 to €400,000 [NOK 3 million] for the same period in 2012.1

Marine Harvest has stated in their Q3 financial report that ‘mortality losses and treatment costs were substantial in the period’. ‘Exceptional mortality in the amount of €1.9 million [NOK 14 million] was recognised’ in Ireland.(1) When presenting these figures it was noted the situation is ‘hurting their Irish operation’.(2)

AGD has been an increasing problem for salmon farming in warmer countries for more than 20 years. In Tasmania, Australia, severe economic losses have been reported of up to A$230M a year. Outbreaks have also now been reported from New Zealand, United States, Canada, France, Spain, Chile and Norway.

Warmer waters associated with global warming are being blamed for the arrival of AGD in Ireland. Overcrowding and poor water circulation increases the problem,(3) as do algae blooms.(4) Algae blooms have resulted in the closure of many bays along the Irish west coast to shellfish harvesting again this year.

Treating affected salmon involves moving them to well boats where they are immersed in fresh water for 2 to 3 hours prior to being returned to their open net pen cages.(5) In order to minimise stress, the fish may have to be sedated prior to transfers to the well boats.

Reinfection rates are an issue where the fish in treated open net pens can be infected after treatment by untreated fish in neighbouring pens awaiting treatment. Residents near Marine Harvest’s Roancarrig salmon farm in Bantry Bay, where AGD has occurred, have reported well boats regularly visiting the farm this year.

Wild salmon naturally return to fresh water each year, clearing any developing infections.

In response, Marine Harvest state they’re harvesting salmon early where gill damage has been observed. They note that this will significantly impact the costs of harvested fish going forward.1

Caroline Lewis, Save Bantry Bay Committee Member, a group opposed to Marine Harvest’s proposals to further expand of salmon farming in the Bay states ‘This raises some serious questions about the long-term financial viability of salmon farming. To sacrifice our environment to such a polluting industry is a tragic, but to do so for an industry that appears to be collapsing would be criminal’.

‘Now is the time to look to the future and more sustainable options that could prevent such disease outbreaks. Closed containment systems mean all inputs and outputs are controlled and even if infected with AGD the fish could easily be flushed in fresh water. Farmed salmon would no longer come at the cost of the environment and fish health would be greatly improved’ said Caroline Lewis.

Minister Simon Coveney’s plans to double Ireland’s salmon output by establishing a super-farm in Galway Bay could now be in jeopardy as investment in the industry is increasingly problematic.

Marine Harvest did not return Save Bantry Bay’s telephone calls.

Further information:

Caroline Lewis, Committee Member, Save Bantry Bay 027 74771 (office) 087 2176316 (mobile)
Kieran O’Shea, Chair, Save Bantry Bay 086 128 0303 (mobile)

Wednesday 7 November 2012


(1) Marine Harvest, Third Quarter, Marine Harvest Group

(2) Marine Harvest, Q3 2012 Presentation

(3) M Akhlaghi et al. (1996) Immunological aspects of amoebic gill disease in salmon. Disease of Aquatic Organisms, Vol 25, pp 23-31.

(4) Marine Institute Research Project Investigations of Increased Mortalities on Marine Salmon Sites due to Gill Pathologies

(5) Marine Scotland Topic Sheet No. 96 v1.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s