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Mass jellyfish invasion wipes out 300,000 salmon worth nearly £1m

Thousands of tiny mauve stinger jellyfish squeezed through protective nets at the Loch Duart fish farm on Loch Maddy.

Tiny mauve stinger jellyfish.
Image copyright Prilfish, licensed for reuse (cropped)

A jellyfish invasion in the Western Isles has wiped out nearly 300,000 young salmon worth around £1m.

Thousands of tiny mauve stinger jellyfish squeezed through protective nets at the Loch Duart fish farm on Loch Maddy.

Some injured salmon survived the attack at the North Uist fish farm on November 19, only to be killed by stormy weather.

Nick Joy, managing director of Loch Duart, said it was a “terrible blow” but added that the company’s future is not in jeopardy.

He said: “We have seen these jellyfish before but not in such large numbers and in each case, though the fish have been disturbed, they have survived the encounter.

“The fish looked very distressed and were shoaling poorly and slowly. It was also clear that some had died though at this stage, not a significant number.

“My immediate view was that though the fish had been sorely tried, the majority of them would have survived as long as the weather gave them some peace to rest.”

Extreme weather which hit the Western Isles in late November caused further damage to Loch Duart’s stocks.

Mr Joy said: “The poor fish unable to swim well were trapped against the net and a very significant number died. We have now removed almost all of the dead fish and only about half remain.

“Salmon farming is a hard, dangerous job and in our company it requires the highest level of empathy with the fish that we grow.”

The same species of jellyfish decimated Northern Ireland's only salmon farm in 2007. More than 100,000 fish worth around £1m were destroyed at the farm near Glenarm Bay.

In October last year, nearly half the salmon at a sea farm in County Mayo in Ireland were wiped out when 20,000 fish were killed in a jellyfish attack.

In 2002, thousands of solmaris jellyfish killed one million salmon at fish farms in the Western Isles. Fish valued around £3m were destroyed in sea lochs at Leurbost, Gravir and Loch Erisort off Lewis.

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Image copyright Prilfish, licensed for reuse (cropped)

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