Aud Skrudland: "We must assess whether the risk of escape should be given greater weight when we decide whether the fish can be left in the sea."

Lerøy fish escape may lead to stricter rules in Norway

Regulator may order earlier harvest if salmon contract serious disease

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The escape of 14,000 potentially diseased salmon from a fish farm in Norway may prompt the Norwegian Food Safety Authority to change its management practices when bacterial kidney disease (BKD) is detected, one of the organisation’s directors said.

Lerøy, one of the world’s biggest Atlantic salmon producers, said on Monday that the fish had escaped from a pen at its Reitholmen site in Fillfjorden in Hitra municipality in its Lerøy Midt farming region.

The next day, the company confirmed to financial news website Børsen that both BKD and pancreas disease (PD) had been diagnosed in some fish at the site.

Escapees must be caught

Aud Skrudland, specialist director in the central region of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, told Fish Farming Expert’s Norwegian sister site,, that the escape was particularly serious because it is large fish (average weight 7.3 kg) that are infected with both BKD and PD.

The escape poses a risk of spreading BKD to both wild fish and fish in other fish farms, emphasised Skrudland. Because the fish are so large, the probability of them going up into the rivers and infecting wild fish is greater.

Skrudland believes that it will be very important to put measures in place to get the fish out before they enter rivers.

“When fishermen possibly catch and gut the escaped sick salmon, it is very important that they collect the waste and do not throw it back into nature. If the carcasses of infected fish are thrown into the sea, it can contribute to the further spread of BKD,” she said.

Greater weight to risk

The Authority already imposes extra biosecurity requirements on farms where BKD is diagnosed, but they may not be enough in future.

“We must assess whether the risk of escape should be given greater weight when we decide whether the fish can be left in the sea or whether it must be slaughtered,” said Skrudland.

Yesterday, non-governmental organisation the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association (NMF) – also known as the ‘Green Warriors of Norway’ - told that it had submitted a report about Lerøy Midt and the general manager of the farm to the police in Trondheim.

“The NMF takes a very serious view of all salmon escapes but is particularly concerned as the escaped salmon were also seriously ill. If these salmon infect wild salmon in the rivers in the Trondheimsfjord, it could quickly mean the end for a number of local wild salmon strains in the fjord,” the group said.

Call for prosecution

In the report, which has gained access to, the NMF demands that the matter be investigated, and that those reported to the police be prosecuted.

“NMF requests that the company Lerøy Midt be fined between NOK 500 and NOK 1,000 (£37 to £73) per escaped fish due to genetic contamination of local wild salmon strains, and the spread of fatal diseases to wild salmon and their offspring. Only large fines, as well as possible prison terms, will be able to prevent such escapes from happening in the future.”

The ‘Green Warriors’ organisation also demands that Lerøy visibly marks its farmed salmon by cutting adipose fins or similar markings as smolt at all its facilities.