Salmon farming giant SalMar is facing an official investigation following the escape of salmon from its giant offshore platform Ocean Farm 1. It is not yet known how many fish became free, but Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries said it cannot rule out the possibility of a major escape at the site.

The Directorate said in a press release that a preliminary investigation showed damage to one of the nets to be at least six metres long, but added it did not want to comment further until a more detailed examination had been carried out.

The statement added:

‘The company was notified that escaped farmed fish had been caught in the area, and then discovered an injury in a joint between net and construction. The damage is stated to be approximately six meters long. The company is conducting recapture in the area and has (so far) reported the capture of about 40 individuals. The fish has an average weight of just over 5 kg. The extent of the escape will not be clear until the fish has been slaughtered.’

SalMar described the incident as being ‘very unfortunate’ and said it would be carrying out its own inquiry. Ocean Farm 1 is thought to contain 700,000 salmon.

In a similar incident two years ago a number of salmon were able to swim out of the cage after the structure tilted and water entered an inspection hatch which had been accidentally left open.

Built in China, Ocean Farm 1, now located in Trondelagis and managed by SalMar subsidiary Ocean Farming AS, represented a major step in advanced aquaculture technology when it arrived off Norway more than three years ago. It has already achieved great success with significantly improved fish health and a sizeable reduction in lice incidents. However, escapes remain a periodic problem for most of Norway’s salmon farmers and last year the Oslo government called on the industry to reduce the number of incidents.

Earlier this year, SalMar and Lerøy, which jointly own Scottish Sea Farms, said they were ready to invest in trials on the possibility of establishing Scotland’s first open ocean farm.

The Directorate has also been told about a possible large scale escape from a Lerøy salmon farm at Hitra in the Trondelag region where up to 10,000 fish may have got out.

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