Some 570 tonnes of dead salmon have been removed from Arnarlax’s open-net fish farms in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. Nearly 100,000 fish died when cold temperatures forced them to swim further down in their nets and rub up against them. The rubbing creates wounds which eventually lead to the fishes’ death.
Deaths could have been avoided
According to the Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), this is not the first time such an incident has occurred in Arnarlax’s farms. In early 2018, farmed salmon died in the same location, Arnarfjörður fjord, for the same reason. Stundin reported earlier this week that the Food and Veterinary Authority had not conducted an independent evaluation of the incident at Arnarlax’s farms, rather the reported numbers had come from the company itself.
According to Kjartan Ólafsson, Arnarlax’s board director, the dead fish account for 4% of all salmon in the company’s farms. Kjartan suggested that the deaths could have been avoided had the fish been slaughtered in December, before January’s extreme weather hit. He adds, however, that the casualties are not above what’s expected in the aquaculture industry. “There was algae in Norway last year and the mortality rate there was maybe close to 20%. So I think people in this industry can generally expect between 5-20% mortality.”
Foreign ships carry risk of disease
Several foreign ships are currently docked in Arnarfjörður to assist with harvesting farmed salmon. The Federation of Icelandic River Owners (Landssamband veiðifélaga) has argued that it is difficult to ensure such ships don’t carry diseases which could infect wild Icelandic salmon. In an interview with RÚV, Gísli Jónsson of MAST admitted that the ships were a weak link when it came to ensuring a disease-free environment, though they had gone through a risk assessment.