Mowi Scotland's Loch Hourn farm was among those that had low mortality in Q4, but some were impacted by bacterial disease or gill health issues.

Good prices offset by biological challenges for Mowi Scotland

Salmon farmer predicting better year after problems including SRS outbreak in 2022

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Higher salmon prices meant that Mowi Scotland made more per kilo in the final quarter of 2022 than it did in the same period the year before, despite having to tackle an outbreak of salmonid rickettsial septicaemia (SRS) in Argyle and harvesting fewer fish.

Scotland’s biggest salmon farmer made operational EBIT per kg of €0.67 (£0.59), compared to €0.61 in Q4 2021, parent company Mowi said in its report for Q4 2022.

Mowi Scotland harvested 10,386 gutted weight tonnes of salmon in Q4, down from 12,002 gwt in the same period in 2021 as a result of a decision to build biomass for the current year.

SRS and gill issues

“Non-seawater costs were impacted by incident-based mortality of €8.0 million (Q4 2021: €6.7 million), or €0.77/kg, related to SRS and gill issues,” wrote Mowi. “The UK recorded its warmest year on record and this directly impacted seawater temperatures, consequently 2022 has been a challenging year for our Scottish farming operations.

High prices helped Mowi Scotland lift EBIT per kilo in Q4 2022 despite harvesting fewer fish and having higher costs.

“Nevertheless, biological conditions improved during the quarter. Overall production and feed conversion rates were also better in the fourth quarter than in the comparable quarter. The SRS outbreak in the Argyle region was detected and treated quickly, as such mortality towards the end of the quarter declined markedly.

“Growth and average harvest weight increased in the fourth quarter and some recovery of biomass was achieved.

“Sea lice levels increased somewhat but were kept under control with treatment activities. Salmon which were relocated to inshore sites during the jellyfish bloom, recovered well and were harvested at the end of the fourth quarter, with some stocks being deferred for harvesting into the first quarter.

Improved harvest weights

“Further to this we will prioritise biomass growth. Harvest weights have improved in the new year on better fish health which should prepare the ground for better operational key performance indicators.”

Mowi expects to harvest 10,000 gwt of salmon in Scotland in the current quarter, and 64,000 gwt for the full year. That’s an increase of almost 16,000 gwt over the 48,375 gwt harvested in 2022, when it was forced to reduce harvest guidance by 10,000 gwt because of biological issues which included SRS but also amoebic gill disease and other fish health problems.

SRS is prevalent in Chile and Canada, and to some extent in Ireland, but instances of the diseases have been relatively rare in Scotland.

€3.1m loss in Ireland

Mowi recorded an operating loss of €3.1 million in Q4 in Ireland, where it also encountered problems with SRS and warm sea temperatures.

“Towards the end of the fourth quarter seawater temperatures returned to their normal range and the biological situation was stable, but with low volumes held in the sea,” the company wrote.

“Harvest volume was 720 tonnes gutted weight, down from 1,568 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2021 due to the biological issues.”

Mowi added that volumes in Ireland in the first quarter will be low as the company prioritises biomass growth after a biologically challenging year.

Mowi Ireland made an operating loss after biological problems led to a lower harvest.