Culling, Delousing of Farmed Salmon Ongoing in Westfjords

Salmon Farm.

Sea lice infestations are prompting ongoing culling of farmed salmon in Tálknafjörður, though outbreaks have proven less severe in nearby Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður, RÚV reports. A veterinarian with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has stated that treatments in the latter fjords have been effective, although colder winter temperatures, affecting the salmon’s ability to convalesce, pose challenges.

Sea lice in the southern Westfjords

The culling of farmed salmon severely damaged by sea lice is still ongoing in Tálknafjörður in the southern Westfjords. As noted in an article on RÚV yesterday, there has also been an excessive presence of sea lice in the nearby fjords of Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. In one area of Arnarfjörður, the salmon are beginning to show signs of lice-induced lesions.

Veterinarian Berglind Helga Bergsdóttir from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) does not consider the situation dire enough to necessitate culling. “The situation is much better in both Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. It’s not really comparable,” Berglind told RÚV yesterday. In Arnarfjörður, lice cleansing with hot water has been completed and has proven effective. Elsewhere in Arnarfjörður and in Dýrafjörður, medications are being used to rid the salmon of sea lice.

The treatment, however, is a race against time. As noted by RÚV, the intervention becomes more problematic for the fish as winter progresses. “All treatments lead to some degree of scale loss, and the healing and defences of the fish decrease with the lower sea temperatures,” Berglind concluded.

As noted in a press release from MAST in October: “Medications for sea lice can have negative effects on the ecosystems surrounding fish farms. Experience from neighbouring countries also shows that sea lice can develop resistance to drugs. Therefore, the use of medications in the fight against lice is a remedy that should not be applied except in absolute necessity. Consequently, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority has encouraged companies to seek other methods to control lice infestations.”

Sea Lice Outbreak Claims At Least 1 Million Salmon in Tálknafjörður

Tálknafjörður

An unprecedented outbreak of sea lice in Tálknafjörður has led to the loss, or the need to dispose of, at least one million salmon, affecting local aquaculture firms and prompting the procurement of foreign treatment vessels for the non-medicinal treatment of lice. The Iceland Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) will review the incident with the involved companies to devise future preventive measures, amidst ongoing investigations into the source of the infestation.

One million salmon perished or discarded

At least one million salmon have perished or been discarded due to an uncontrollable outbreak of sea lice in Tálknafjörður in the southern Westfjords. Speaking to Heimildin, Karl Steinar Óskarsson, Head of the Aquaculture Department at the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), stated that “no one had seen a sea lice infestation spread like this before.” The outbreak is currently affecting the fish pens of Arctic fish and Arnarlax in Tálknafjörður.

“That’s why they’re all being discarded. Nobody has seen anything like this before. There is a Norwegian veterinarian who has been working in Iceland because of this and he has never seen anything like this in his 30-year career,” Karl Steinar observed.

Karl Steinar added that there was no confirmed information on how the sea lice got into the fish pens operated by the aquaculture companies. Investigators are examining whether wild salmon transmitted the sea lice. However, nothing can be asserted in that regard at the moment.

Bacterial infection compounding lice problem

A press release published on the Food and Veterinary Authority’s website yesterday noted that upon examining the fish from Tálknafjörður it had been discovered that environmental bacteria were infecting the lice-induced wounds, making them significantly worse.

“These wounds lead to a loss in the fish’s ability to maintain essential ion balance in the body. In Tálknafjörður, this caused a portion of the fish to fall ill in a short amount of time. The fish that are now being discarded will be rendered and, among other uses, will contribute to fur animal feed. The fish will not be used for human consumption.”

MAST stated that it would review the incident with the companies, once operations are concluded, to suggest ways to limit such occurrences in the future.

Proliferation of sea lice in Patreksfjörður

The press release further notes that salmon farming companies in the southern part of the Westfjords have struggled to control the proliferation of sea lice in the fish pens in Patreksfjörður since last spring.

Since then, the Food and Veterinary Authority has recommended the concerned companies procure, as soon as possible, foreign treatment vessels for non-medicinal treatment of lice. This includes freshwater treatment, thermal treatment, and flushing. Such treatments kill the lice with little or no environmental impact.

As noted by MAST, efforts were made by the companies in the fall to bring treatment vessels to Iceland, but it seems that the demand for such vessels required more foresight, as they were in high demand. It was not possible to bring a vessel to the country until mid-October. MAST maintains that such a vessel must be stationed in the Westfjords from May through October every year, which is what the companies aim to do, starting in the spring of 2024.

Grounded Research Vessel in Westfjords Successfully Refloated

A research vessel that ran aground in Tálknafjörður at around 10 PM last night has been refloated. An investigation into the incident is underway.

Weather conditions calm and favourable

At 9:12 PM yesterday, a report was received by the Coast Guard control centre that the research vessel Bjarni Sæmundsson, of the Marine & Freshwater Research Institute, had run aground at Sveinseyri, Tálknafjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland.

The Coast Guard’s helicopter unit, along with the rescue vessel from the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR), and other ships, were dispatched to the scene. There were twenty people on board when the ship ran aground. For maximum safety, it was decided to reduce the number of passengers on board, and thus, eight passengers were evacuated.

The Coast Guard’s helicopter was on standby at Tálknafjörður. The weather conditions at the grounding site were calm and favourable. With the aid of the rescue ship Vörður, along with fishing vessels Fosnafjord and Fosnakongen, the ship was refloated at 11:26 PM during high tide and subsequently moved to a pier in Tálknafjörður. An investigation into the circumstances of the grounding is being conducted by the Transport Accident Investigation Committee (RNSA).

Two Injured in Tálknafjörður Fire

Two people have been transported to hospital with minor burns due to a fire at a fish fry farm in Tálknafjörður in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. The fire broke out in a building at the site that was still under construction. Fire crews continued to fight the flames as of 12:30 PM this afternoon and were doing their best to protect neighbouring buildings.

The area around the fire has been evacuated, and firefighting crews from other Westfjords towns, including Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður, have been called in to help. Westfjords police had closed roads through the area and warned travellers and locals to respect them. Firefighting crews have managed to protect areas of the site that carry a risk of explosion, such as oil tanks and power stations.

The new building, now heavily damaged, was expected to cost around ISK 4 billion [$27.8 million, €26.2 million]. Arctic Fish representatives have stated the total cost of the damage is as of yet unknown. Authorities say the fire is now under control but that crews will continue working for quite a long time. The fire did not reach any other buildings or affect any of the fish at the farm.