Sea lice averages for the Scottish farmed salmon sector declined slightly in 2020, figures published by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation show. The annual average fell to 0.52 adult female lice per salmon, down from 0.54 in 2019.
Last year’s count was the second lowest recorded, after 2018’s average of 0.46. The SSPO said the 2020 figures were a reflection of the industry’s “prevention over cure” strategy, in which innovations such as the use of lice skirts, cleaner fish and mechanical delicing methods mean that there is less reliance on a pharmaceutical approach.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said: “Fish health and welfare will always be our members’ top priority. The Scottish salmon sector continues to invest and innovate in the management of such challenges as sea lice. These figures – the second lowest in eight years – remain at consistently low levels thanks to the considerable efforts of farmers.
“Despite the issues posed by the coronavirus pandemic which necessitated changes to working and farming practices, Scotland’s salmon farmers have ably demonstrated their ability to care for their fish with the upmost professionalism while ensuring consumers in the UK and beyond have had access to fresh, healthy food.”
Since detailed records began in 2013, the average adult female sea louse count reached a peak of 1.33 in 2016. From 2021 onwards, the Scottish government now requires that all farms record a weekly rather than monthly count.