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A scientist observes the gills of a farmed salmon.

Two ambitious projects seek to help control salmon gill disease

Click on the flag for more information about United Kingdom UNITED KINGDOM
Saturday, January 12, 2019, 01:50 (GMT + 9)

Two Scottish consortiums will launch a pair of projects in which a GBP 3.5 million will be invested to improve gill health and the resilience of Atlantic farmed salmon.

These initiatives, supported by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Center (SAIC), will have the experience of a series of world-renowned academic companies and institutions, led by the Rural College of Scotland (SRUC); the Roslin Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh); Loch Duart, an independent salmon company; and Landcatch Natural Selection, an important salmon producer and part of Hendrix Genetics.

Other ten organisations, including The Scottish Salmon Company and Grieg Seafood Shetland, will also contribute in the project.

This project will complement an GBP 800,000 SAIC co-funded project announced in April 2018, which aims to develop new feeds to promote salmon health and devise diagnostic tools for monitoring gill health.

The first project consists in the adoption of an innovative and unique approach to explore the factors which can cause gill damage or disease to occur – such as the local environment, water quality and temperatures, as well as nutrition, farming practices, and equipment . At the same time, a better way to prevent and control the condition will be examined.

Checking the gills of a salmon for signs of AGD

The second is analysing the genetic characteristics which cause some salmon to be more vulnerable to gill disease.

The results could allow the aquaculture industry to breed fish with enhanced resilience to gill infections and other health issues, such as sea lice.

Scotland is the third largest producer of salmon in the world. In 2017 the industry produced 189,707 tonnes and supported around 8,000 jobs across the country, with an overall value of more than GBP1 billion to the economy.

However, in the last few years, impaired gill health accounted for substantial fish loss.

“The health of a fish’s gills is absolutely critical to its overall wellbeing. The outcomes we are looking for from these projects are to help provide the industry with the knowledge and tools it needs to manage and control outbreaks, and – further down the line – to prevent disease as far as we can by breeding fish with greater natural resistance,” Robin Shields, Senior Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC, said 

For his part, Giada Desperati, Research and Development Coordinator at Loch Duart, explained that rising water temperature is adding to the gill challenges facing their salmon.

“Ensuring the best possible health and welfare for our fish is massively important to our company. Not only is Loch Duart investing heavily in new technology to counteract this problem, but we welcome with open arms the opportunity to work together with other salmon farmers on this important health issue,” he reported.

Alastair Hamilton, Senior Geneticist at Landcatch Natural Selection, also explained that Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD) is emerging as one of the most important challenges to the salmon industry worldwide, with treatment costs presenting a substantial financial burden to the industry.

“Since introducing genomic selection as a means to enhance resistance to AGD in 2014, Hendrix Genetics has demonstrated that the use of this technology can substantially accelerate genetic progress compared to conventional breeding programs, with evidence suggesting gains are both cumulative and permanent”, he concluded.


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