THE profits of a major fish farming company in Scotland have been halved due to the impact of disease.

Mowi Scotland employs around 1500 staff and operates in 50 locations around the country.

However, the company’s latest financial report found that operating profits fell from £54 million in 2021 to £27 million in 2023. It states that the reduction is due to higher mortalities and the impacts of salmonid rickettsial septicaemia (SRS) – a bacterial disease which is often treated with antibiotics.

Micro jellyfish blooms were also listed as contributing to the fall in profits.

Directors revealed that harvest volumes fell by 10.1%, stating that the industry was facing challenges in maintaining fish health and growth.

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SRS can cause haemorrhages, respiratory problems, skin lesions, and swollen kidneys.

The report added: “On the production side the challenges faced by the company relate to fish health and growth primarily affected by sea lice, cardiomyopathy, gill disease, treatment losses and to a lesser extent algal bloom.

“These biological challenges result in higher mortality, lower biomass growth and downgraded product, all of which lead to increases in the production cost per kilo and decreased sales prices.

“Physical damage is one of the main causes of mortalities on seawater farms. Improvements in design of cages and site equipment aims to minimise the risk of fish being damaged by the equipment.”

Campaigners claim the number of fish farms in Scotland is unsustainable and causing damage to marine habitats, with open-net salmon farming singled out as “fundamentally unsustainable”.

Director of campaign group Wildfish, Rachel Mulrenan, told The Times: “Mortalities on salmon farms are rising. In 2022 more than 16.7 million farmed salmon died prematurely in Scotland’s cages, almost double that of the previous year.

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“The Scottish salmon farming industry continues to firefight, with each ‘solution’ creating yet another problem. Intensive farming in our seas creates a breeding ground for parasites such as sea lice, and diseases. These transfer to wild fish, causing severe, sometimes fatal, damage.

“The root cause of this issue is that, fundamentally, open-net salmon farming is unsustainable. The damage being wrought by open-net salmon farming cannot continue and we hope the Scottish government wakes up to this environmental catastrophe before it’s too late.”

Salmon Scotland, the body which represents every company involved in salmon farming in Scotland, said high welfare standards were being maintained.

A spokesperson said: “Scottish salmon farmers provide the highest welfare standards anywhere in the world for the animals in their care.

“Independent certifications from bodies including the RSPCA mean that our farmers go further than their statutory responsibilities in areas including animal health and welfare and environmental standards.”