Projects developed to boost cleaner-fish use in Scottish aquaculture
A team of academic, government and aquaculture industry bodies are developing projects worth GBP 2.9 million to increase the use of cleaner-fish in the Scottish salmon industry.
Initiated by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), the research will focus on lumpsuckers, a species of fish that is known to eat sea lice, a natural parasite which feed on both wild and farmed salmon.
Scottish salmon is Scotland’s single largest food export, with overseas sales valued at GBP 500 million. And an industry-wide challenge is the control of natural parasites that attach to wild and farmed salmon and impact the output of salmon farms by slowing salmon growth.
The project developers explained that as a biological method of sea lice control, lumpfish can reduce the need for treatment with licensed medicine and that, like wrasse, lumpsuckers can cohabit with salmon and feed on sea lice, and they have been identified as a complementary species to wrasse in boosting the supply of cleaner-fish to the industry.
Referring to the project, SAIC pointed out that one of them aims to establish a secure and sustainable supply of lumpfish for Scottish salmon farms and to optimise their deployment for effective sea lice control. Apart from the centre’s grant, further contributions came from Marine Harvest Scotland, Benchmark Animal Health, BioMar, The Scottish Salmon Company and Otter Ferry Seafish - as well as the University of Stirling.
As to the other project, SAIC detailed the intention is to improve the welfare of lumpfish deployed in Scottish salmon farms, through a detailed analysis of the biological needs and disease challenges facing them when they are raised in hatcheries and deployed in salmon pens. In this case, SAIC’s grant has been supported by the Fish Vet Group, FAI Aquaculture, Scottish Sea Farms, The Scottish Salmon Company, Grieg Seafood Shetland and Cooke Aquaculture and, as an academic partner - the University of Stirling.
“The commercial use of cleaner-fish has been identified as one of the most promising ways to address sea lice control in the Scottish salmon industry. By investing in and accelerating projects like these, which meet the needs of the industry, we aim to increase the productivity and sustainability of salmon farms across the nation,” stated Heather Jones, SAIC’s CEO.
For his part, the Director of Research at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture Professor Hervé Migaud also welcomed the projects and remarked: “Research into cleaner-fish is of great potential value to the economic development of the Scottish aquaculture industry, and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre’s support for these two projects could have a tremendous impact. The Institute of Aquaculture is leading world-class research focused on cleaner-fish, and will bring its full range of expertise to address key knowledge gaps which are limiting the implementation and welfare of lumpsucker fish.”
“In our partnerships with salmon farmers in Scotland, we encourage the early adoption of innovative practices that support sustainability and good environmental stewardship. The developing use of biological methods to control sea lice is exciting, and we are delighted that these two collaborative projects could open the way for the wider deployment of cleaner-fish on Scottish salmon farms,” concluded Jeremy Ryland Langley, Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager, Waitrose.
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