ANIMAL welfare charity Scottish SPCA is leading an investigation into the death of up to 6,000 farmed salmon at a fish farm in Shetland.
On Saturday SSPCA inspectors raided Hoganess Salmon on Shetland’s west side, acting in concert with the police, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and the government agency Marine Scotland.
Hoganess Salmon operates from the shore base at Burrastow, near Walls, and grows around 3,000 tonnes of salmon over an 18 month cycle.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “I can confirm that the Scottish SPCA is leading an investigation into alleged fish poisoning in the Shetland Islands, working with SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage, Marine Scotland and the police.
“This investigation is currently ongoing therefore no further information is available at this stage.”
A SEPA spokeswoman also confirmed they were involved in “an ongoing investigation into an alleged fish mortality incident in Shetland”.
Hoganess Salmon is part of the Lakeland Group which is owned by Norwegian firm Marine Farms ASA, who have fish farming operations in Shetland, Argyll, Spain, Belize and Vietnam.
Lakeland’s managing director Willie Liston said problems arose when the company was carrying out a controlled treatment for sea lice at one of its 16 cages in the area on 15 August.
He said that between 5,000 and 6,000 fully grown salmon, weighing an average of 3.5kg each, had died and the company had immediately launched its own investigation into what happened.
SEPA became involved after dead fish started to be transported to the dump in Lerwick last Thursday, he said. SSPCA and SEPA inspectors visited the fish farm on Saturday morning.
Mr Liston said: “The investigation revolves around a higher level of mortality than we would have expected in one cage while doing a sea lice treatment. I don’t know when that will be finished but we should know something within the next 10 days.”
He said there were different treatments for sea lice and this had been “a gentle bath treatment”.
The cage had been enclosed in a tarpaulin and the treatment had been applied using “one of the latest technology workboats to look after the welfare of the fish”, allowing the dosage to be more finely measured.
The Lakeland Group is certified by the English animal welfare charity RSPCA under its Freedom Foods label, which guarantees that animals are farmed to the highest welfare standards.
Lakeland say their policy is “to farm its fish with due respect to preserving the environment and consideration of animal welfare”.
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