A wild salmon conservation group yesterday called for a farmed salmon cull because sea lice numbers had “exploded” in the north-west Highlands.
The Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) said the Scottish Government should emulate Norway and order an immediate cull of farmed salmon in the affected areas.
It claimed the latest sea lice data, published by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, showed that in the third quarter of 2013, sea lice numbers on farmed salmon were “massively out of control” in the north-west Highlands.
The association pointed out that the report revealed that average lice numbers during September on farms between Kinlochbervie in the north and Applecross in the south were between nine and 12 times over the industry’s own threshold figures.
The conservation group’s chairman, Hugh Campbell Adamson, said: “We have been warning the government for years that the headlong rush for expansion, combined with increased sea lice resistance to the cocktail of drugs used to control them, would end in disaster.
“This report confirms that, in the north-west, we have now reached that point. The numbers are truly shocking and, by any definition, the salmon farmers in these areas have lost all control.”
He added there was now no excuse for the Scottish Government not to take action.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation yesterday said they had anticipated some spikes in the numbers due to thevery warm weather and an increase in water temperatures this summer.
And she pointed out that the same phenomenon also affected some wild fisheries.
The spokeswoman said: “The areas affected are a very small proportion of the total number of salmon farming areas. It is expected that the numbers will fall as temperatures drop.
“By the time of the next report, we fully expect the situation to be resolved.”
She added that the threshold for sea lice treatment in the industry’s code of good practice was being portrayed by the angling groups as a “pseudo legal threshold rather than a marker for good management practice”.