A PROBE has been launched into the future of Scotland’s salmon farming industry amid widespread concerns over the deaths of millions of fish.

Infestations of sea lice and gill disease have caused major problems within the £765 million sector, sparking a surge in costs.

Farmed Atlantic salmon is Scotland’s largest food export, with £519 million-worth of fish exported between January and October last year alone.

But earlier this month it emerged 2.3 million salmon died from disease and predation in the first nine months of 2017 at one of Scotland’s largest fish farm operators.

Now the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy committee has launched an inquiry into the state of the industry and its future development.

Convener Edward Mountain MSP said the farming sector was “clearly of great significance in economic terms to Scotland” with further growth expected in the coming years.

But he added: “However, the industry also currently faces a variety of challenges, such as managing farmed salmon health – particularly concerning sea lice and gill disease – its environmental impact, and dealing with climate change.

“The inquiry is an opportunity for people to voice their views and opinions on the current state of the salmon industry, opportunities for its future development, and its environmental impact.

“In the coming months we will gather evidence from producers, processors and others directly involved in the salmon industry; environmental organisations and Scotland’s food and drink sector.

"It’s crucial that we access the valuable knowledge, experience and expertise of everyone in Scotland with an interest in the future of the salmon industry to help shape our work in this area.”

MSPs are already probing the environmental impacts of salmon farming, and are now calling for evidence from a range of organisations involved in salmon production.