Lerøy's 14,000 escaped salmon may be carrying serious diseases

Thousands of fish escaped from a Lerøy Midt facility which had already been closed after bacterial kidney disease and pancreas disease were detected.
Aerial view of Lerøy Midt aquaculture farm.

Aerial view of Lerøy Midt aquaculture farm.

Lerøy Seafood Group.

Lerøy Seafood Group has a doubly concerning problem on its hands this week: not only has it reported a significant fish escape incident, but the fish themselves may be carrying serious infectious diseases.

The salmon farming company announced on Monday that 14,000 salmon with an average weight of 7.5kg had escaped from its Lerøy Midt Reitholmen facility in Hitra, Norway.

At the time, Harald Larssen, General Manager of Lerøy Midt, stated that the company was in close communication with the authorities, including the Directorate of Fisheries, and had implemented its emergency plan, deploying recapture nets, as well as launching an investigation into the causes behind the escape.

"This should not happen. We have a vision of zero escapes, and take this very seriously," he stated in a press announcement on Monday.

Biosecurity breach could impact wild salmon populations

However, now local news outlets in Norway are reporting that the escaped salmon were possibly infected with two serious diseases that had previously been detected at the facility prior to the escape: bacterial kidney disease (BKD) and pancreas disease (PD).

According to Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet's financial website Børsen, Larssen has confirmed the presence of these diseases and mentioned that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) had already closed the Reitholmen facility due to the infections.

Børsen further reported that scientific experts warn of the risk of the escaped salmon transmitting diseases to wild salmon populations. The Norwegian news outlet quoted Professor Are Nylund, a specialist in fish health at the University of Bergen, as saying it was "quite likely" that salmon of this size would head for rivers and thus be able to infect wild salmon and their fry.

This is the second escape incident reported by Lerøy Midt this year. In March, approximately 5,000 salmon of 6kg escaped from Lerøy's Naustneset site in Tingvollfjorden in Gjemnes municipality, Møre og Romsdal.

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