The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) and the Meridian Salmon Group have signed a pioneering three year agreement with Otter Ferry Seafish Ltd which will see Ballan wrasse* commercially farmed for use in salmon cages for the first time.
The partnership agreement will see over 250,000 commercially farmed wrasse deployed in marine sites over the next 3 years. Numbers will be split equally between The Scottish Salmon Company and Meridian as the potential benefits of introducing the wrasse, or ‘cleaner fish’, for animal welfare and the marine environment will be carefully studied.
While widely shown to reduce sea lice on salmon, this is one of the first full scale operations to farm and deploy wrasse in Scotland. The initiative, which is supported by The Crown Estate, aims to show the value of wrasse to help manage levels of sea lice and reduce the dependency on veterinary treatments. Both companies will introduce the wrasse alongside other husbandry methods that help counter the naturally occurring parasite that attaches itself to both farmed and wild salmon.
The Scottish Salmon Company, which already successfully pioneered single generation, single loch, synchronised fallow systems as a firewall against the build-up of sea lice, was the first Scottish salmon farming company to engage with the concept of commercially farming wrasse. Working with Viking Fish Farms at Ardtoe three and a half years ago, the company developed the first initial commercial production of Ballan wrasse which was thereafter co-opted into the Ecofish project.
At the same time, Meridian Salmon Group was instrumental in initiating a multi partner funded pilot project at Otter Ferry. The project successfully recruited the necessary broodstock and established the protocols required for commercial production of wrasse. In the course of the project some 15000 juvenile wrasse have been produced demonstrating commercial survival rates.
Findings from the latest SSC/Meridian project will be shared with the wider industry through the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation to ensure that all developments can benefit the Scottish salmon farming sector as a whole as it competes to gain share of domestic and International markets.
Dale Hill, heads up SSC’s international project group on wrasse which includes production, veterinary and finance specialists. Commenting on the partnership with Meridian and Otter Ferry and commitment to the Viking Fish Farms, she said:
“This is an important step forward, from both an environmental and industry perspective. While sea lice are naturally occurring we have the opportunity to control and manage the situation in salmon pens and with relatively few veterinary treatments available to us, the need to find natural biological solutions is paramount.
“The industry is growing and opening up new markets. Regulatory restrictions and ever increasing environmental standards are driving important innovations and it is heartening that Scotland is leading the way.”
William Young, Business Support Director at Meridian Salmon Group added:
"Meridian Salmon Group is delighted to be working alongside Otter Ferry and the Scottish Salmon Company on this exciting project. Having worked closely with Otter Ferry on the original pilot project we were very keen to continue our commitment to this Wrasse Project. Joining forces with Scottish Salmon Company seemed a logical step for us, pulling together a wealth of knowledge and expertise from all three of the companies involved. The excellent work Otter Ferry has been doing in recent years has delivered clear results for Meridian, this new agreement only strengths that position and we look forward with confidence".
Alastair Barge for Otter Ferry commented:
“I take my hat off to them.
“It is great news to have the support of two of Scotland’s leading salmon farming companies in this exciting and very challenging project .The success of the project requires an integrated approach and a genuine commitment between the wrasse hatchery and the salmon on-growers.
“This newly signed agreement is certainly a demonstration of the required level of commitment.
“The Crown Estate has again demonstrated its overall support for the industry with a very welcome contribution to the project.”
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