Farmers warned over cleaner fish welfare

Norwegian fish farmers have been told they must not treat cleaner fish for problems they do not have.

The country’s Food Safety Authority (FSA) said the instruction applies particularly to unnecessary treatment for lice.

The FSA is calling on companies to sort and treat cleaner fish in a gentler manner before they begin de-licing work on salmon.

It is reminding salmon farmers that it is contrary to the Animal Welfare Act to allow cleaner fish to undergo salmon lice treatment, either with or without the use of medication.

The authority statement says: “The rationale is that animals or groups of animals should generally only be treated when it/they have been examined and the conclusion is that treatment is needed.

“Cleaner fish are not a susceptible species for salmon lice, and will therefore not be diagnosed with salmon lice. Salmon lice treatment is also burdensome for the cleaner fish, and this burden does not benefit the cleaner fish either. Drug-free deworming in particular is today considered one of the biggest welfare threats to cleaner fish.

“The appeals unit has therefore concluded that it is contrary to the Animal Welfare Act, the Aquaculture Operation Regulations and the IK Aquaculture Regulations to allow cleaner fish to remain in the production unit when treating salmon against salmon lice in the same unit.

The statement adds tersely: “The appeal decision from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s appeals unit is final and forms new practice.

“There is no right of appeal. Cleaning fish must therefore be sorted out in a documented, gentle manner before salmon lice treatments with and without drugs. The exception is if deworming methods are used that do not affect the cleaning fish, such as e.g. lice laser.”




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