16.5 salmon died prematurely on Scotland's salmon farms in 2022. It is time for radical change, so that farmed salmon are given quality lives. Until this happens, there should be no further expansion of this industry.

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What are the key welfare issues?

Salmon farm. © Laurie Campbell

16.5 million salmon died during the production cycle in 2022- nearly double that of 2021 and triple that of 2020.

There are many factors that cause such high mortality rates. Salmon on farms in Scotland are stocked at high densities, in environments with no or little enrichment, and are exposed to sea lice, disease, predators and bad weather amongst other things.

Sea lice

Sea lice are parasites that feed on the flesh, scales and tissues of salmon. This leaves tissue exposed, causing pain and creating an entrance for disease, as well as causing stress and mortality. Sea lice burdens on salmon farms have been as high as 29.5 average adult female sea lice per fish.


A salmon with sea lice damage.


Diseases are prevalent across salmon farms. They include Cardiomyopathy syndrome which impacts the heart muscle of salmon, leaving them weak and fragile; Amoebic Gill Disease, where parasites cause death via asphyxiation and Infectious Salmon Anaemia, which has no cure, meaning that infected fish must be slaughtered. In 2016, over 100,000 salmon died from Amoebic Gill Disease over a period of 10 weeks.


Sadly, treatments for sea lice and disease often do more harm than good, exposing salmon to harsh chemicals or harsh mechanical treatments, causing stress, physical injury and death. A key example of this is the Thermolicer, whereby fish are exposed to high water temperatures, abrasive surfaces, and severe crowding. Mortalities can be high, in one incident, 10,619 salmon died following Thermolicer treatment.


Escapes from salmon farms are frequent, with 52,463 farmed salmon escaping in 2022. 300,000 farmed salmon escaped in 2017. Salmon that escape are poorly adapted to a life in the wild and will suffer. Escaped farmed salmon also interbreed with wild individuals, which creates offspring with reduced fitness, which causes severe population declines of wild salmon.

Welfare impacts: not just salmon

It is not just farmed salmon that are impacted by salmon farming in Scotland. Cetaceans such as harbour porpoise are excluded from their habitat by acoustic deterrent devices intended to scare seals away, crustaceans are damaged by chemicals used and declines in wild salmon and trout numbers have been linked to salmon farming.

A lumpfish, which can be used as


Cleaner fish are used as an alternative “treatment” for sea lice, as they pick off and eat them from salmon. However, they too suffer on salmon farms from aggression, disease, and treatment damage. Most are not thought to survive the production cycle, and if they do they are disposed of by the industry to minimise the spread of disease.

Media highlights

Recent media coverage of our campaign to stop salmon farming expansion includes an article in The Ferret.

“These animals deserve better. We are calling on the Scottish Government to immediately halt the continued expansion of Scottish salmon farming. Ultimately, intensive salmon farming must come to an end.” Kirsty Jenkins, OneKind

R.Edwards, 'Suffering 'endemic' at Scottish salmon farms'The Ferret, 23 March 2021

Progress in our Stop our Salmon Farming Expansion campaign