Bakkafrost set to cull 180,000 salmon following ISA detection at Faroese farm

A Bakkafrost salmon farm in the Faroe Islands
A Bakkafrost salmon farm in the Faroe Islands | Photo by Cliff White/SeafoodSource
4 Min

Bakkafrost will be culling 180,000 salmon after discovering infectious salmon anemia (ISA) at one of its farms in the Faroe Islands.

Bakkafrost CEO Regin Jacobsen confirmed ISA had been detected in water tested after being used to host salmon being treated for sea lice.

“There are two units which are infected. They will be harvested within the next couple of days,” Jacobsen told SeafoodSource.

Around 180,000 Atlantic salmon, weighing an average of 2.5 kilograms, will be harvested in the coming days at the company’s Vágsfjørður farm off the island of Suðuroy in the Faroe Islands, Jacobsen said.

“There have been no sign of disease … [but] we hope to stop the virus even before any disease is developed in the farm,” Jacobsen said.

The preemptive harvest will decrease Bakkafrost’s total 2024 production by 2,000 to 3,000 metric tons, according to

The work has been complicated by a nationwide strike ongoing for the past nine days, as union workers, including fish-processing workers, truck drivers, maintenance workers, port workers, push for higher wages.

Bakkafrost successfully applied for an exception to Faroese labor laws to allow it to begin the process of clearing out its affected sites, according to Kringvarp Føroya.

The Faroe Islands are particularly sensitive to issues concerning ISA after an epidemic nearly wiped out the entire salmon-farming industry in the early 2000s, leading to legal reforms that set much more stringent rules for how salmon are farmed there.

Glyvrar, Faroe Islands-based Bakkafrost produced 90,600 MT of farmed salmon in 2022  and 73,000 MT in 2023, surpassing USD 1 billion (EUR 900 million) in revenue both years, ranking it in the top 10 of farmed salmon producers in the world. It expanded into Scotland in 2019 after purchasing a majority stake in the Scottish Salmon Company.

Bakkafrost is the largest private employer in the Faroes, with about 1,100 people on staff. It accounts for around 50 percent of the nation's total exports, Bakkafrost Marketing Manager Poul Andrias Jacobsen previously told SeafoodSource.

Separately, Norway is dealing with its own rash of ISA outbreaks up and down its coast.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority issued notice on 27 May there was a positive ISA test recorded at Organic Seafarms' Kjølvika I site in Gildeskål, Nordland, Norway. And on 27 May, Måsøval said it detected the presence of infectious salmon anemia during a routine screening at its Fjølværet farm in Frøya Municipality, Norway.

On 28 May, Lerøy Vest Sjø said it recorded a positive ISA test at its 24735 Gulholmen farm in Bjørnafjorden, Vestland, Norway. The same day, the prence of ISA was confirmed at the 14136 Hestholmen Ø farm in Kvitsøy municipality in Rogaland county jointly operated by Grieg Seafood Rogaland and Skretting. 

And on 23 May, a positive ISA test was recorded at Nordlaks Havbruk's 13296 Sandnes Ø farm in Hadsel municipality, Nordland. It also established restriction zones for combating ISA in Sveio, Bømlo, and Stord municipalities, Vestland county.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority said it is taking action to conduct follow-up testing at all three sites, but did not say how it was planning to do so amid a strike of 263 of its employees that began 27 May.

"The strike will have consequences for the work in all our specialist areas including animals, food, drinking water and plants," it said in a note posted on the Mattilsynet website. "The Norwegian Food Safety Authority will have a poorer ability to handle acute incidents and urgent matters, such as outbreaks of serious and contagious animal and plant diseases, as well as handling and investigating foodborne disease outbreaks."

The note said the agency will also have a reduced capacity for issuing seafood export certificates.

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