Lerøy sites hit by mass mortalities

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Calls are growing for a full investigation into large scale deaths at a Lerøy salmon farm sites in Norway.

Thousands of fish are reported to have died in recent weeks from gill disease and possibly other health issues.

Lerøy has said it is taking the incidents very seriously and is working hard to find out what happened. The company also stresses it has a has a strong focus on fish welfare.

The problems, which were discovered in early September, was first revealed by the national broadcaster NRK which said there had been mass deaths at several facilities in the Trondelag and More and Romsdal regions in recent weeks.

NRK said it has obtained images showing large quantities of dead and passed out salmon at the bottom of the company’s cages at two locations in Hitra municipality.

The broadcaster added: “In the event of such incidents, breeders have a duty to report to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. High mortality is serious because it can mean a risk of infection for other fish and must therefore be notified immediately.

“Lerøy has obtained analysis from a laboratory company. NRK has obtained these documents, and the examined salmon was full of diseases at the time of death.”

Bjarne Reinert, the group director for aquaculture at Lerøy Seafood confirmed to NRK that an abnormally large number of salmon have died at several of its facilities this autumn.

Gill disease, which is not notifiable, is thought to be the main problem but there have been other issues such as heart disease and parasites.

NRK showed pictures of the results to leading fish health professor Trygve Poppe, at the Norwegian Institute of Environmental and Biosciences (NMBU).

He described the images as being particularly strong and said that in such a situation it was important for breeders to act quickly, adding that infections could spread if dead fish were left lying around for long periods.

Norway’s SV (Socialist Left) party has called for a full investigation into the incidents and demanded that the new fisheries minister Cecilie Myrseth appears before parliament and explain what the government plans to do to save the industry’s reputation.

She has already described the images as being particularly disturbing, insisting that the industry had a responsibility to maintain good fish welfare.

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