SalMar reports suspected fish escapes after Storm Ingunn

The Norwegian salmon producer has uncovered pens with holes at several of its sites, "despite significant preventative work prior to the storm."
SalMar farming site in Central Norway, the area most affected by the Storm Ingunn. The company has reported suspected fish escapes at four of its sites in the area.

SalMar farming site in Central Norway, the area most affected by the Storm Ingunn. The company has reported suspected fish escapes at four of its sites in the area.

Photo: SalMar.

SalMar's run of bad luck continues. To the news of fish loss in its Senja-based operations with which it closed last year - first because of a technical error in its smolt production facilities and then because of toxic jellyfish - is now added the suspicion of escapes after Storm Ingunn affecting Central Norway.

Although it continues to thoroughly check its facilities, in the aftermath of the storm the company has found holes or other damage that could lead to escapes at the sites at Farmannsøya in Åfjorden, Salatskjera in Frøya, Gjæsingen in Åfjord, and Fjordprakken in Smøla. All of them have already been reported to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries (Fiskeridirektoratet, Fdir, in its Norwegian name and acronym).

However, SalMar was not the only company affected. Although it has not provided names, the Directorate of Fisheries stated that, as of February 6, three companies had reported escapes or suspected escapes related to Storm Ingunn.

Four SalMar sites under suspicion of escape

"Despite significant preventative work prior to the storm, there are sites where pens with holes have been uncovered, and the Directorate of Fisheries has been notified according to procedure that there is suspicion of fish escape." With these words, SalMar reported the consequences the storm that hit the coast of Central Norway in recent days has had on its facilities.

Specifically, the Norwegian salmon farming giant reported that, thanks to its feeding cameras, holes were found in three nets at the Farmannsøya site in Åfjorden, a facility that operates with submerged pens. As soon as the weather calmed down, the company mobilized divers and remotely operated underwater vehicles to inspect and repair them. "The cause of the damage is not yet fully determined, but there is a high probability that biomass meters in the pens have created holes in the nets," SalMar stated. The fish in this facility weigh approximately half a kilo.

A hole was also discovered and reported in a net at the Salatskjera site in Frøya municipality that was plugged immediately after discovery and has now been repaired. In this case, the damage is believed to have been caused by a camera winch falling into the net. The fish in the affected net weigh approximately three kilos and recapture nets have been deployed in an attempt to retrieve them.

Finally, SalMar also notified the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries of minor incidents at two more sites. Two small holes in nets were observed at Gjæsingen, Åfjord municipality,  and a jump fence collapsed at Fjordprakken, Smøla. Although the possibility of escape is considered low, recapture nets have also been deployed here.

So far, no fish have been caught in the recapture nets deployed at the sites. Nevertheless, SalMar also stated that, in collaboration with the Directorate of Fisheries, it will continue to review the damage and actions to be taken and share this with the industry for learning purposes.

Not the only company affected

As mentioned, SalMar is not the only company that has reported suspected fish escapes following the storms last week. The Directorate of Fisheries said that, as of February 6, it had received reports of escapes or suspected escapes related to a total of 14 pens, spread across eight facilities after Ingunn.

According to Fiskeridirektoratet, the reports are coming from central and northern Norway, but are mostly concentrated in Trøndelag. "Three companies have reported these incidents," Fdir said in its statement. "The damages range from damages to jump nets to holes in nets of various sizes. The affected sites have salmon ranging in size from approximately 300 grams to 6 kilos."

At the time of the statement, the extent of the escapes in any of the reported incidents had not yet been determined although the two presumably larger ones were reported to have occurred in Hitra and Frøya, where cracks up to 4-5 meters in length have been found in the nets. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries continues to monitor the incidents.

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