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Where are the salmon in this “biomass” they talk of?

Last year, 13,000 tonnes of farmed salmon have died in Norway due to an outbreak of algae. We are talking about animals here, not "biomass".

Nearly 8 million salmon have died. When fish die, the industry thinks primarily about finances. But it is animal cruelty on a grand scale.

Now the industry is holding its breath and hoping the algae just dies away.

In all other livestock industries we would talk about an animal tragedy. If a barn burns and the animals burn in, it's a tragedy. Something on this level on a terrestrial farm would hit newspaper headlines, people would mourn.

But when eight million farmed salmon die, the industry reports financial losses and seems to corrupt the minds of the public into thinking the same. The fish are referred to as “biomass”.

Even the Norwegian media contributes to the “economic” focus. NRK wrote the headline "Nothing like it for decades: - Fish worth 2.4 billion have been lost".

Meanwhile in Scotland, the numbers of salmon dying prematurely in cages, land tanks and laboratories is in millions. It was measured at nearly 26,000 tonnes in 2019. If salmon weighed the same as water (it's slightly denser), that would be enough to fill TEN Olympic sized swimming pools.

Dead salmon

“The dead salmon is milled up and mixed with “acid” (of unknown description but usually formic acid) and ends up as animal feed.” says Trygve Poppe, former professor of fish health at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science.

The fish scientist states that farmed salmon are protected in Norway by the same laws as other animals. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between how we think of fish and how we think of mammals, he believes.

“It's a bit simple to say that it is because fish are fish. Our moral approach to different animals varies. Different animals have different ethical quality.”

“When we think of animals, any harm or death to deer, calves, dogs and kittens is met with strong emotions. Animals like snakes, frogs and fish come at the bottom”, according to Poppe.

“Fish are something we handle in large quantities. We have no personal relationship with each individual”, says the researcher.

Fish feel pain

The sea around the cages in Nordland is coloured green by algae. It is clearly being fed by nutrients in the salmon farm cages.

The algae that spreads in fish farms in Nordland and Troms produces poison that attacks the respiratory system of the fish. The gills are destroyed and the fish are choked. The rate at which death occurs depends on the concentration of algae.

"The reason why the salmon die in the cages is that they do not have the opportunity to escape the suffocating effects of the algae, unlike with wild fish. They must gather in the depths or towards the surface," says researcher Lars Helge Stien at the Institute of Marine Research.

The algae causes salmon to signal that something is wrong and that they need to escape. Some of the farms where investment is made in the form of surveillance cameras can identify this. But waiting for the harmful effects means that salmon are already suffering.

Being suffocated as a sign of poor water quality cannot be considered “good welfare” anyway. So the whole idea of caged salmon is undeniably cruel.

The effects are not far off the same kind of feelings and pain threshold as other animals.

We also know from several studies that fish have relatively good cognitive abilities. Fish have sensory organs that send signals of pain via the spinal cord to the brain, just like in mammals.

“They quickly learn to avoid painful situations, they can have long-lasting changes in behavior after being exposed to rough treatment and respond less to supposedly pain-inducing stimuli if they have previously received painkillers”, according to Stien.

“Fish are indeed covered by the Act on Animal Welfare on the same level as everything from sheep to dogs”, says Trygve Poppe.

In Scotland fish are covered in the Animal Health and Welfare Scotland (Act) 2006, Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, and The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010.

“The low ethical status of fish also has consequences for how we as private individuals handle fish”, says Poppe.

“Many of us are not accustomed to the fact that the food we eat has been a living organism. Here, there is a lot of work to do”, he says.

Line Ellingsen, manager at Ellingsen Seafood told NRK on Friday that the situation has escalated further in the last 24 hours.

“This is an animal tragedy, put simply. We have 870,000 salmon in the cages. At best, we may salvage half, but in the worst case everything will be lost”.

So far, 5,200 tonnes of farmed salmon in Nordland and 6,800 tonnes in Troms are estimated to have died due to the algae bloom, and the Directorate of Fisheries is closely monitoring the spread.

The Norway tragedy comes weeks after a similar, smaller scale issue in Scotland. they are blaming it on the unseasonal surges in water temperature, yet nobody has actually proved this and the industry is yet to admit it is localised around the polluting farms.

Research is currently being rushed through in a blind panic to try and preempt the inevitable. But the real research has already been done. Allan Berry, et al, carried out over 40yrs of study on how nutrification of sea lochs from Salmon farming is to blame for algal blooms in and around the salmon pens. They were ignored, attempts were made to shut them down and ridicule them. Now, they have been proven correct.

And no matter what we hear from feedlot operators and the SSPO in Scotland about “doing the best we can” etc, there is no denying that they lose typically 10million fish in Scotland every year to a raft of problems they simply can’t overcome. It is completely outrageous.

These people are surely guilty of environmental crime.

There seems no Government on earth that has the courage to stop this absurdity and actually put the culpable salmon industry people where they belong - in prison.

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