Kit Davies
There is rising concern among Scotland's salmon farmers at an infestation of tiny jellyfish which destroyed more than one million fish at sites on the Western Isles.
The sudden appearance of the jellyfish caused Western Isles Seafoods to suffer almost 100% losses at sites at Loch Odhairn by Gravir and Loch Leurbost, at a cost of some £2m.
Stolt Sea Farm UK, part of the Stolt-Nielsen global operation, lost 100,000 salmon from three sites on Loch Erisort.
Stolt UK president Ole Petter Krabberod said: "We are mystified and very concerned. And we are not at all sure it has stopped.
"The jellyfish have now disappeared, but while they were there we could not pump them out because they were in the total water column and would have ended up minced up and stuck in the salmon's gills. We could have moved the cages, but that is a risk in itself."
Krabberod estimated his company had lost 5% of its stock. He said there were reports of the jellyfish still being present on the western side of Lewis and rumours of them being seen off the mainland.
Krabberod said Stolt had had problems with jellyfish last year "but on a much smaller scale.
He added: "They hit last year but there are far more of them this year. We think this is a new phenomenon and that it could continue in years to come."
Neither of the companies affected is a member of Scottish Quality Salmon, but SQS spokesman Ken Hughes said he expected some members would feel concern about the problem. "It's a new one on us," he said.
The losses were large in volume, said Hughes, but to date represented less than 1% of Scottish farmed salmon volume, of 150,000 tonnes a year.