Fish Farming Is So Filthy That Salmon Are Getting Lice

Last year, wholesale salmon prices rose by 50 percent due to an outbreak of sea lice from Sweden to Norway and Chile, according to The Guardian.

A sea louse, or common salmon louse, is a parasite that feeds on the blood, skin, and slime of salmon. Sea lice killed thousands of tons of farmed fish in 2016 and caused skin lesions and secondary infections in millions more fish. Now the parasites infest nearly half of Scotland’s salmon farms.

Sea lice are more prevalent in farmed salmon, and the confined spaces of factory farms are the perfect breeding grounds for the parasites. Warmer waters brought on by climate change also add to the spread of sea lice, a study suggests.

To combat the growing epidemic of sea lice, salmon factory farms are importing tons of wild-caught wrasse fish and introducing them to the farmed salmon. “Cleaner” fish, wrasse consume parasites and are used instead of chemicals to combat lice infestations. The importation of these fish for parasite control wreaks havoc on natural populations.

The Guardian reports:

We are very worried that a large local fishery has developed rapidly over the past couple of years—with large numbers of wrasse being taken from local waters—without proper management or any indication of its sustainability,” said Samuel Stone, of the Marine Conservation Society. “It is a real concern.”

Annual wrasse catches from Norwegian fishing crews have risen from fewer than 2 million in 2008 to 22 million in less than a decade, according to New Scientist. These population depletions will have an unforeseeable effect on the marine ecosystem. Even worse, the fish are killed and discarded after their lice-eating duty is done.

While farming wrasse has been proposed, this solution would be inhumane for many other reasons. Factory-farmed fish endure crowded waste-filled pools and lives of misery. A study published in 2016 noted that factory-farmed salmon become “so depressed they give up on life.”

Watch this Mercy For Animals investigation at a fish slaughter facility:

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.