Aquaculture Adventures in Scotland
Last week, I travelled to Scotland with science reporter, Vic Gill, from the BBC. We went to witness one of the many ground breaking innovations being implemented at Scottish salmon farms: the commercial use of farmed cleaner wrasse as a form of sea-lice control. This project, with co-funding from the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and involving Marine Harvest (Scotland), Scottish Sea Farms, BioMar and the University of Stirling, aims to boost productivity of aquaculture in Scotland.
Sea-lice are a naturally occurring parasite which attach themselves to salmon. They affect the growth of the salmon and this subsequently impacts the economic output of the industry. Scottish salmon is the UK’s number one food export so sea-lice control is critically important to our economy. While traditional sea-lice controls include licensed medicines, it has been discovered that wrasse fish can be used as a natural alternative because they feed on sea-lice. Therefore, they cohabit with salmon acting as a cleaner fish and controlling the presence of sea-lice. I like to think of it as two species living in a chorus of ecological harmony.
So the trip: our first stop was to Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre to see Marine Harvest and Scottish Sea Farms’ wrasse hatchery, where wrasse are farmed and raised before being transported to salmon farms. The facility had dozens of tanks, each containing the fish at different stages of their lives. Three thousand mature wrasse were loaded into a tank and we were on our way to Craobh Haven, the location of the salmon farm where they were introduced. The farm had 12 salmon pens, each with around 70,000 salmon – we introduced the wrasse into four of these pens. The sea-lice levels in these pens will be monitored over the coming months to measure their efficacy.
It was amazing to witness this innovation in action, and an honour to see – all being well – the first steps in seeing farmed wrasse used as a widespread commercial solution to sea lice. Incredible projects like these – and many more that SAIC are working on – will contribute to the economy.
It was an honour to be at the start of something beautiful.
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