Lerøy ordered to extend recapture fishing after salmon escape

Approximately 1,200 farmed salmon have already been recaptured but Norway's Directorate of Fisheries ordered Lerøy Midt Sjø to extend recapture efforts in Hitra for another week.
Aerial view of Lerøy Midt aquaculture farm.

Aerial view of Lerøy Midt aquaculture farm.

Photo: Lerøy Seafood Group.

Early May, Lerøy Seafood Group reported that 14,000 harvest-ready salmon had escaped from its Reitholmen facility in Hitra, Norway. Two weeks later the company reduced its estimate of escaped fish by 40%, to 8,400. Now, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has ordered an extension of the at-sea recapture fishing for another week.

Background: dual concerns following escape incident

As mentioned, in early May, Lerøy Seafood Group reported a salmon escape at the Reitholmen location in Hitra, operated by its subsidiary Lerøy Midt Sjø. According to information from the Directorate of Fisheries, the incident occurred during the preparation of the net for fish delivery. The fish weighed approximately 7 kg each.

The problem was doubly troubling because, in addition to the large number of fish believed to have escaped - as said, 14,000 salmon were initially reported - there were added biosecurity concerns. Viral and bacterial pathogens causing kidney disease and pancreas disease had previously been detected among salmon at the affected site, and there were fears about how that might affect wild salmon populations.

Lerøy later downgraded the number of escaped fish to 8,400 and claimed that the escaped salmon were healthy and safe for human consumption, thus trying to allay fears of contamination following the incident.

What's new: recapture efforts extended in time and locations

Now, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has reported that, as of May 20, the company has caught about 1,200 farmed fish through its recapture efforts in the area of the escape.

Some have been caught on location but most of these recaptures have been made with vessels hired by Lerøy - only fishermen who have agreements with the company can participate in this fishery -. In addition, approximately 140 farmed salmon have been caught at the monitoring station in Agdenes.

Nevertheless, taking the influx of wild salmon into account in the assessments conducted, and after consultation with the County Governor, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has decided to order Lerøy Midt Sjø to extend the recapture efforts in the Fillfjorden area on the east side of Hitra.

The decision - reviewed and extended on a weekly basis - has also been expanded by requiring recapture nets to be placed in three other locations: Storskogøya, Vassgåsholmen, and Gunnarøya.

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