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Tough quarter for Shetland salmon

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
12 May 2017, at 1:00am

Salmon harvests in Shetland were at historically low levels in the first quarter of the year while the archipelago usually produces around 40,000 tonnes annually, which equates to roughly a quarter of Scotlands annual salmon production, two of the three producers on the islands have experienced a poor start to the year, harvesting less than 1,300 tonnes between them.

Grieg Seafood's Q1 report, which was published today, showed that harvest volumes from their Shetland operations in the quarter fell to 1,293 tonnes, down from 2,240 tonnes in Q1 2016. Meanwhile Scottish Sea Farms’ Q1 report, issued earlier in the week, revealed that they had harvested no fish in the first three months of the year from their Shetland sites, largely due to lice problems experienced towards the end of 2016.

“It’s been a tough first quarter,” Grant Cumming, MD of Grieg Seafood Shetland (GSS), told The Fish Site. “We have had very low harvesting volumes and many of these fish had high production costs associated with complex gill disease. We are shutting some of these sites (now harvested out) as part our risk minimisation strategy and will be concentrating our resources on fewer better performing sites in future.”

EBIT before fair value adjustment of biomass was NOK -11.2 per kilo in Q1, down from NOK 3.1 per kilo in the first quarter of 2016 – a reflection of the fact that harvests in the quarter were from locations with a high cost. It is planned that several of these locations will be temporarily laid fallow when the new 18-month production cycle is implemented.

“We do see lower production costs on our 18-month plan fish, some of which are now being harvested in Q2,” explains Grant, who is working on ways of tackling both louse- and gill-related health issues.

“We now have a double Optilicer system in operation in Shetland. We are still learning how to get the best out of the new system but we are seeing clearance of over 90 percent of the lice,” he says. “In addition, we have instigated an enhanced monitoring programme for complex gill disease which we hope will allow us to identify the presence of gill pathogens at sub-clinical levels and allow us to intervene early, thereby reducing the risk of clinical disease developing.”

Details of how the third producer on the archipelago, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, has fared so far this year have not yet been released.