Fly Fishers' Republic

Designer Salmon

October 1, 2012

by Raif Killips

Designer Salmon

FFR writer Bruce Sandison has written for years on the issues surrounding salmon farming, but mostly at a time when genetic research was in its infancy. Now, Scottish scientists are on the verge of creating a “disease-free” super salmon that could revolutionise the fish-farming industry across the world.

The motivation for this development: “Farmed salmon are susceptible to infestations of parasitic sea lice that cause considerable stress to fish and major economic losses to the industry.”

The not insignificant side effect of salmon farming is the devastation it brings upon wild salmon and sea trout stocks. In part this is brought about where pollutants and pathogens are launched wholesale into the natural ecosystems by intensive aquaculture practice.

The argument for the proposed genetic development of farmed salmon stocks: “Fish that could tolerate sea lice infestation – it is known that resistance is inherited – would be a major benefit to an industry that is forced to spend huge sums every year on chemical treatments.”

Note, this new approach doesn’t necessarily reduce the levels of infestation, it only reduces the amount of chemicals used in production. While the reduction in the application of chemicals is to be applauded the immanent move may serve only to mask the issue of parasite and disease infestation, perhaps making the plight of wild fish even worse.

Plenty including myself, would say just stop the intensive farming and the problem of disease is effectively solved. Restore the natural balance. Change the method of farming.

But the equation isn’t that simple is it?

But surely it is. Isn’t it…?