How new developments in aquaculture are boosting the Scottish economy
ith an estimated market value of over £1.8 billion and Scottish salmon exports alone reaching over £500 million, Scotland’s aquaculture sector is fast becoming a core pillar for the future growth of the Scottish economy. However, with such a steep increase in the demand for fish products, there is a real need for innovation within the sector to stay ahead of the curve and provide a sustainable supply of healthy protein; not only for the present but for the future of a market that appears set to keep growing. Ahead of Aquaculture UK, CEO of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), Heather Jones, shares some of the organisation’s forays into finfish research projects and the ways in which is working with both industry and academia to enhance the whole of the Scottish aquaculture sector.
Tackling industry issues with innovation
Farming any species brings with it several challenges which can affect productivity, quality and sustainability and aquaculture is no different. One industry-wide issue in finfish farming is the
control of natural parasites that attach to both wild and farmed fish and can cause physical damage, stress, or lead to secondary infections on the affected individuals. This impacts the output of salmon farms by slowing salmon growth. Typical measures around sea lice control currently include husbandry techniques and licensed medicines, but the industry is looking for new and innovative ways to tackle the problem, using more biological methods and reducing the need for treatment with medicines. The use of cleaner fish has been brought into integrated sea lice management over the past few years. Cleaner fish naturally remove ectoparasites, such as sea lice, from other fish and live alongside them harmoniously in the wild. Wrasse – in particular ballan wrasse – are currently the most popular choice as cleaner fish in the salmon industry in Scotland. Cohabitation of salmon with cleaner fish, both wrasse and another species, lumpsuckers, have been shown to reduce significantly the sea lice challenge to salmon and to enhance production on farms. Whilst wrasse have proven to be effective within fish farms, previous projects have largely involved the collection of wild wrasse, a solution which is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. So there is a need to look beyond and to develop a wrasse culture here in the UK. This is in its infancy and production challenges have, to date, limited the deployment of farmed wrasse. To overcome some of these challenges, SAIC has
30 | May | June 2016 - International Aquafeed