Scottish Fish Farm Losses: 30% of Farmed Salmon Perish in 2023

I’ve just calculated* that – in Scotland alone – over 30% of fish farmed salmon may have been lost in 2023. If my interpretation of recently published numbers is correct this is utterly disgusting. Representing a 5% increase in mortalities as compared to the recent trend of 25% mortalities. A news article published yesterday by the BBC highlights the unfortunate effect warming oceans are having on salmon (forced to live and die in their closed pens) no doubt climate will have an effect on any harvest. However, it is surely the job of the fish farmer to improve methods of husbandry and make changes to reduce mortality. Surely they work with climate scientists and know what’s coming? Throughout the 2000’s it was standard practice for Scotlands fish farms to run at 20% mortality. Now it seems, with much increased numbers of farms (over 200 in Scotland), newfangled feed and technology things are getting worse not better. This is outrageous.

I find it sickening. No one likes the idea of battery raised chickens. Its almost an unacceptable idea today. Mortality rates of up to 14% in those tiny cages, poor chooks! Shocking. Did you know the UK’s Red Tractor farm assurance scheme requires mortality rates for chicken do not to exceed 5%? We seem to think free range chickens are okay – veggies aside – and a 5% mortality rate would appear to be publicly acceptable. The miserable fish farm industry in Scotland has been running at 25% mortality over the last few years (according to Inside Scottish Salmon Feed Lots). If the industry projections and my calculations are anywhere near right, then statements I’ve heard down my local “we dumped eight tonnes of dead Salmon, just this morning!” (that particular employee put it down to a mistake with some “treatment”) might well be accurate. Totally rotten work. These are our lochs they’re playing in. I’ve seen the trucks rolling over the mountain from the fish farms, it is common knowledge in the Highlands that fish farms are a disgrace, the companies in charge are clearly not capable.

* Calculations
Projected production for 2023 was 187,725 Tonnes. This is from industry figures published in a report given to the government last year. Annoyingly they do not give us a number of actual Salmon so with a very large pinch of Hebridean sea salt I calculated the number like this…

First, I need to estimate an average weight of a salmon. Stated as 5.5-6kg according to this site and a Scottish Government report (from a few years back) concurs. A 2020 report on the Scottish Government website produced with Marine Harvest seems to indicate 5.5kg is pretty average weight for fish farmed salmon in Scotland. They are the major producer. The website All About Feed references 5.2kg as the average gutted weight. I decided on a low average weight of disgusting fish farmed salmon at 5kg.

5kg divided by 187725000 kg (projected production tonnage 2023) is equal to 38 Million fish. That means 38 Million is the apparent number of salmon farmed in Scotland, 2023. From the most recently published numbers we learn that a further 17 Million salmon did not make it to market. 17 Million lost added to 38 Million projection gives us 55 million salmon to begin with. This is in line with figures from 2022 where the number of smolts (salmon added to the farms as stock) was stated at just over 55 million.

BBC News reports 17 Million salmon lost in 2023. I calculate there were 38 million salmon that made it to market. 55 Million in total of which the losses equal 31%. It could be as much as a quarter of toxic fish farmed salmon was lost last year.

The Scottish Government report (Mortality+information+-+until+end+January+2024.xlsx) described in detail the average weight of the lost salmon and someone with more spare time than me could probably calculate the actual weight of lost salmon per farm, then remove this from projected or true tonnages when published for absolute accuracy. Huge numbers obviously.

It appears this is very bad news for the Scottish Fish Farm industry. Long may they rot at the bottom of their metaphorical pen. Those horrible eyesores that they are, which so nobly offer the wee inhabitants of the wee far off Highlands a pittance (I’m mocking the often used line; what else would people do in the Highlands? “we need the fish farms, we need the jobs”). Not one of my friends in the Highlands makes a living from fish farming. Nor have I been offered any salmon caught there since I was a boy. In lochs once full of native salmon, even in my childhood I recall the delight at seeing (or even taking a chance at catching) these plentiful beauties. They appear to be all gone. That was just 30 years ago. Toxic fish farmed salmon is all we have now.

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