The Economist: Climate change threatens UK's food export

    WORLD  19 June 2024 - 02:14

    A recent article from The Economist discusses the significant challenges facing Scotland's salmon farming industry due to climate change, highlighting the escalating mortality rates among farmed salmon as a critical issue.

    Despite its economic importance—contributing over £1 billion annually to Scotland's economy and supporting thousands of jobs—the industry is grappling with profound ecological shifts impacting fish health.

    Climate-related factors, particularly warming oceans, are identified as primary drivers behind the increasing number of premature salmon deaths. Although higher water temperatures themselves aren't directly harmful to salmon, they contribute to the proliferation of harmful algae, jellyfish, and plankton that damage salmon gills and cause fatal illnesses. Additionally, overcrowding in fish farms exacerbates the spread of sea lice and viral infections, compounding the challenges faced by salmon farmers.

    The article underscores the scale of the issue with stark statistics: more than 10 million farmed salmon died offshore in both 2022 and 2023, marking a significant increase compared to previous years. The mortality rate has roughly doubled from 1.18% to 2.35% between 2018 and 2023, prompting concerns and prompting the Scottish government to initiate a review of the industry's practices and policies regarding fish health.

    In response to these challenges, various mitigation strategies are being explored within the industry. These include deploying sturdier offshore enclosures, exploring deeper and cooler waters further offshore, and experimenting with onshore farming in massive underground tanks. However, these solutions are not without their own complexities and costs, reflecting the industry's struggle to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.

    Overall, The Economist's article provides a comprehensive analysis of how climate change is casting a shadow over Scotland's vital salmon farming sector. It highlights the industry's vulnerability to ecological disruptions and the urgent need for adaptive strategies to ensure its long-term sustainability amidst evolving environmental pressures.

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