THE multi-million pound salmon industry has warned weekend pollution protests aimed at west coast farms could pose a “serious hazard”.

Swimmers, kayakers and rowers are to hold two days of action around salmon farms on the Argyll coast this weekend.

Brought together by Scottish Salmon Watch, which wants a crackdown on the lucrative sector over pollution and welfare fears, protesters will circle salmon feedlots in public waters off Oban and will take water samples to test for contaminants.

The costumed campaigners will use their attire to highlight their concerns, appearing as a lobster in a gasmask, a harbour porpoise in ear defenders and a seal in a bullet-proof vest, to highlight “some of the harmful impacts of salmon farming”.

The move comes after the release of video footage showing lice-ridden farmed fish with large open sores and of photographic material depicting large-scale dumps of mass morts on North Uist.

Conservation and angling groups have added their voice to crackdown calls, including the Prince Charles-backed Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland.

However, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), which represents the sector – a major rural employer and key export producer – says it is a responsible industry that takes animal welfare and the environment seriously, working on new solutions to protect its fish from the killer sealice which can also be found in wild stocks.

Overseas sales of Scottish farmed salmon were worth £207 million in the first three months of the year, according to the umbrella body, making it the UK’s largest food export.

And, as campaign groups including global platform SumOfUs prepare for their weekend action, the SSPO has urged critics to stay away from fish farms.

Hamish Macdonell, the SSPO’s director of strategic engagement, told The National: “Unauthorised visits to fish farms place employees and the animals they care for at risk. They also pose serious hazards to those entering the farms without permission. As a result, any visit must be undertaken in accordance with the strict safety and biosecurity measures in place on each farm and take place only with the express permission of the farm manager.

“Salmon farmers ask that people remain a safe distance away from farms and other facilities, for the safety of all involved and to protect the health and welfare of the livestock.”

The protests will centre around sites owned by Mowi and Scottish Sea Farms, which are both Norwegian-owned.

More than 43,000 people have signed a live petition by Scottish Salmon Watch and SumOfUs for emergency inspections of Scottish salmon farms.

The swimming action is backed by animal welfare charities OneKind, Peta and Animal Concern, as well as Extinction Rebellion.

Sondhya Gupta, campaign manager at SumOfUs, said: “There’s a rising tide of public opposition to Scottish salmon farms’ dirty business. Scottish salmon should be the pride of Scotland – not a shameful secret branded ‘sustainable’ while fish live in filthy conditions unfit for any animal.”

Calling for consumer backing, Dennis Archer, co-convenor of Argyll & Bute Branch of the Scottish Green Party, added: “Argyll needs to treat its marine environment better and will get no help from the Scottish Government in Edinburgh. There are better ways of managing this polluting industry without the chemicals, with more jobs and bigger benefits to the Scottish economy. The first thing people can do to help is to stop eating farmed salmon.”