£800,000 project targets gill health

A PROJECT worth almost £800,000 has been launched by Scottish Sea Farms and feed company BioMar to target gill health in farmed salmon.

The £798,400, two-year initiative, part funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), will develop innovative diagnostic tools to precisely monitor the gill condition of salmon in seawater pens, along with devising new feeds to promote optimum health and welfare.

It is hoped the research, which also involves the University of Aberdeen and Marine Scotland Science, will help address one of the biggest health problems affecting farmed salmon.

The diagnostic tools will enable farmers to fine-tune their husbandry practices to the conditions of the local marine environment, aided by rapid response modelling of risk factors.

Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, which is contributing £284,000 of the cost, said: ‘As the first of a suite of gill health projects being funded by SAIC, we are delighted to support the experienced academic and industry team to advance our understanding of complex gill disease in Atlantic salmon and to develop innovative surveillance tools and nutritional solutions.’

Professor Sam Martin, of the University of Aberdeen, said: ‘The gill being a complex organ is central to fish health and wellbeing.

‘Using new molecular approaches in this research project, we hope to be able to speed up diagnosis and assess how nutrition can improve gill health in salmon.’

Ralph Bickerdike, head of fish health at Scottish Sea Farms, said: ‘As responsible farmers, we are constantly exploring new ways to further improve the welfare of the salmon in our care – and this cross-sector collaboration has the potential to do exactly that.

‘By increasing our understanding of gill health and the different factors affecting it, this research will help identify ever more effective approaches to protecting our salmon against this key environmental challenge.’

Picture: Professor Sam Martin (University of Aberdeen)

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