A salmon farm worker holds a salmon


Salmon Farming in Shetland

The unmistakable pattern of salmon cages in the sheltered voes and archipelagos around Shetland is hard to miss. The aquaculture practice behind these features has over the last few decades become a major player in the local economy. Salmon farming in Shetland is now worth over £100 million a year and provides around 300 jobs to the isles.

This series of images takes a closer look at salmon farming in the Shetland Islands.

Salmon farm worker throwing feed to scottish salmon, Shetland Salmon farm worker raising netting prior to lice treatment, Shetland Salmon farm workboat heading out to the salmon sites in Shetland, Scotland

Out at the Salmon Farm Sites

Salmon are kept in groups of pens around the coastline of Shetland. These pens are attached to a feed barge which provides feed pellets to the salmon through a series of pipes throughout the day.
The workers will head out in the morning from the shore base to tend to duties at the salmon sites. This could include lice checks, lice treatment, removing dead salmon, harvesting salmon, or many other duties involved in the farming of salmon.
The biggest threat to the salmon farming industry is sea lice, small parasites that attach to salmon and feed on their blood & skin.

Lice Checks

This series of images shows salmon farm workers carrying out lice checks at the salmon farm sites. A selection of salmon are caught from the pen and placed in a container of anaesthesised water. The salmon are then visually checked for sea lice. The number of sea lice and their gender are recorded before the salmon are returned to the pen. Recording the number of sea lice is done to help determine the amount of treatment required to remove the lice.

Lice Treatment

These images show salmon being treated with hydrogen peroxide to remove sea lice. The perimeter netting of the pen is raised and then a large tarpaulin is pulled underneath to surround the cage. Hydrogen peroxide is then pumped into the cage until a specific concentration is reached. Once the concentration is reached the chemical is left in the cage for a pre-determined amount of time. The tarpaulin is then removed and the perimeter netting is lowered again. The use of hydrogen peroxide stuns the sea lice which then eventually fall off the salmon. The chemical itself breaks down rapidly into hydrogen and oxygen.

Salmon Feed Carrier

Pellets of salmon feed are delivered directly to the feed barges at each site by a salmon feed carrier vessel. The feed is loaded at one of the ports and then the vessel travels around the coast to the salmon farms. The vessel ties up alongside the feed barge and unloads the amount of feed required by each site. The bags of feed are lifted off by crane and dropped on to a spike over the feed barge's hopper. This pierces the bag and its contents fall directly into the hold of the feed barge.

A wellboat approaches a salmon cage, Shetland Overhead view of a salmon farm workboat, Shetland Salmon farm worker operating a capstan to raise netting, Shetland