Here's a press release issued by the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (6 November 2016) - download as a PDF online here
'Thermolicer' Back-Fires Killing 95,400 Farmed Salmon
- £2.7 million up in flames for Marine Harvest on Isle of Skye
Information obtained from the Scottish Government via FOI reveals that 95,400 farmed salmon were killed during July and August this year by a 'Thermolicer' at Marine Harvest's salmon farm in Loch Greshornish on the Isle of Skye. A briefing note to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity in September reported that the mass mortalities (460 tonnes) cost Marine Harvest £2.7 million and "highlights the ongoing difficulties and costs faced by industry with regards to sea lice management". In an embarrassing twist the Thermolicer was described as "a recent £4 million investment by Scottish Sea Farms rented by Marine Harvest" .
Read an Exclusive by Rob Edwards in today's Sunday Herald newspaper: "Oops: fish farm firm kills 175,000 of its salmon by accident"
Other documents obtained by GAAIA via Freedom of Information detail other mortality and disease problems at Marine Harvest salmon farms during 2016 totalling ca. 350,000 dead farmed salmon - the incidents include:
- 60,000 farmed salmon (13% mortality) killed by Hydrogen peroxide treatment for AGD at Soay on Harris (with a further 17,226 morts earlier in the year due to Peroxide/Salmosan treatment in well boat)
- "Lorries loads of dead fish removed for destruction on almost daily basis" in Lewis
- 84,820 dead salmon (15% mortality) at Grey Horse Channel (Sound of Harris) due to AGD and Pancreas Disease
- 77,884 dead salmon (11 mortality) at Invasion Bay (Loch Sunart) due to "maturation"
- 23,854 dead salmon due to Pancreas Disease at Ardintoul (Loch Alsh)
"The sky's the limit to the cruelty and stupidity of the salmon farming industry," said Don Staniford, Director of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture. "Serious questions must now be asked how thousands of farmed salmon became overheated, suffocated or even boiled alive by the Thermolicer. Sea lice infestations and infectious diseases such as Amoebic Gill Disease are quite literally choking the Scottish salmon farming industry to death. That Marine Harvest is desperate enough to resort to a decidedly dodgy 'Thermolicer' shows how deep-rooted the industry's disease problems are. The Thermolicer should be renamed The Terminator and be sent back to Norway along with the rest of the disease-ridden Norwegian-owned salmon farming industry plaguing Scottish waters."
The animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, described the Thermolicer as "a very brutal form of treatment which clearly causes distress and suffering to the fish," reported The Sunday Herald (6 November 2016). "It currently opposes its commercial use." "Killing fish by overheating, whether accidental or not, is simply inhumane," said the group’s chief executive, Philip Lymbery. "All current forms of treating sea lice entail problems."
The Sunday Herald also reported (6 November 2016): "The Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, has lodged a parliamentary question asking for a list of fish farming incidents over the last two years. He questioned whether the industry could double production "without disastrous consequences".
BBC News reported in July 2016 that farmed salmon were "unharmed" by the Thermolicer. "It works by bathing fish briefly in lukewarm water, capitalising on the parasite's low tolerance for sudden changes in temperature" gushed the BBC. Ralph Bickerdike, head of fish health for Scottish Sea Farms, told BBC News: "The Thermolicer is the latest step in developing alternative tools to maintain a sustainable solution to fish health management." 
Photo: Scotland's First Thermolicer delivered to Scottish Sea Farms in July 2016
This is not the first time that the use of a Thermolicer has caused mortalities for Marine Harvest - in March it was reported that 32,700 farmed salmon had been killed at a Marine Harvest salmon farm in Norway. Another Norwegian media report in Bergens Tidende in April suggested further mass mortalities following treatment with the Thermolicer .
In July, Marine Harvest Scotland claimed that a new Thermolicer and two Hydrolicers “are proving highly effective” but their use still needs to be refined. Steve Bracken, Business Support Manager at Marine Harvest Scotland, told Fish Farming Expert (26 July): "The Hydrolicers are giving good results but as with all new systems it takes time to achieve optimum results." In September, Marine Harvest advertised for 'Hydrolicer Technicians' which were "based on a workboat that has the potential to cover all our sites in Scotland". "The role is focused on operating and maintaining equipment that removes and captures sea lice," said the job advert.
The damning revelations could not come at a more inopportune time for the Scottish Government who just last week unveiled a 'Roadmap to 2030' in a bid to double the size of Scotland's aquaculture sector within 15 years. "The strategy states that almost £30m has recently been spent in each of the past five years on tackling sea lice," reported BBC Scotland Business/Economy Editor Douglas Fraser (29 October) . "Think about that for a moment - £150 million".
Read the report: 'Aquaculture Growth to 2030'
Last month, the Scottish Government, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and Highlands & Islands Enterprise were all also keen to point to £2.5 million in European funding - including £1.76 million for novel approaches to sea lice control. "Amongst the alternative solutions being trialled is hydrolicer technology which uses low pressure water jets to dislodge sea lice; an innovative ‘bundle’ of technologies that brings best practice approaches into a single system; and a Thermolicer device which capitalises on the parasite’s low tolerance to sudden changes in temperature by briefly bathing fish in warmer water," stated a SAIC press release (28 October).
“Aquaculture is one of our real economic success stories and the industry is on track to grow to a value of well over £2 billion annually to the Scottish economy by 2020, supporting 10,000 jobs," trumpeted Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing in a press release (29 October). "I am committed to supporting continued growth to 2020 and beyond as part of my wider priorities to build growth in the rural economy. This is a great example of how essential EU funding is, helping to encourage further innovation and supporting the sustainable growth of aquaculture, in turn benefiting rural communities which depend on this industry."
A press release issued by Highlands & Island Enterprise (28 October) included a video of the Thermolicer in action:
The video claims: "Steinsvik Thermolicer in action. Kills salmon lice with hot water. No harm to the fish".
Watch online via "Delicing using Thermolicer"
"With lice infestation and gill diseases already plaguing salmon farming, it is sheer lunacy for the Scottish Government to sanction a doubling of aquaculture by 2030," continued Staniford. "Increasing production is a recipe for both ecological and economic ruin. Common sense would dictate a drastic reduction in production to reduce the lice and disease burden. Sadly, common sense is not a currency this Government is used to dealing in. Perhaps Fergus Ewing should go down to the Parliamentary library and read a copy of 'Limits to Growth' in order to learn the basic concepts of carrying capacity?"
"Faced with such endemic disease problems how on earth can the Scottish Government sanction a doubling of aquaculture by 2030?" concluded Staniford. "Perhaps Fergus Ewing has been zapped by the Thermolicer boiling his brain and rendering him in a zombie-like state? Or maybe the Thermolicer works by wiping out people's memories? That might go some way to explaining Prince Charles's recent visit and support to Marine Harvest's 'sustainable' salmon farming operation."
Today (6 November 2016), GAAIA wrote to the Norwegian Stock Exchange (Oslo Bors) asking them to investigate whether Marine Harvest, Leroy & SalMar (as owners of Scottish Sea Farms) and Bremnes Fryseri/Steinsvik (manufacturer of the Thermolicer) have failed to disclose significant disease, mortality and financial issues regarding the operation of the Thermolicer.
Download press release with Notes to Editors via Thermolicer' Back-Fires Killing 95,400 Farmed Salmon: £2.7 million up in flames for Marine Harvest on Isle of Skye
Read more via:
Read FOI reply from the Scottish Government (23 December 2016) on sea lice during 2016 online here
Read a summary of the FOI reply by GAAIA (January 2017) online here