Aquaculture leaders pledge to confront sea lice threat

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by Benedikte Ranum

Head of Marketing and Communications

The Scottish salmon industry expressed a clear commitment to increase investment in tackling sea lice during 2019, according to a poll conducted by SAIC.

At a collaborative workshop attended by nearly 50 industry peers, delegates were asked about their investment intentions for the next 12 months for dealing with sea lice – one of the industry’s most enduring challenges. All of the respondents envisaged investment being equal to or greater than in 2018, with 45 percent stating greater levels of investment in 2019. These figures represented a range of organisations from across industry, academia, and the public sector.

The survey also showed acknowledgement across the board that more could be done to tackle sea lice. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents agreed that the aquaculture community could do more to improve sea lice management. 

Robin Shields, Senior Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC, said: “It’s encouraging to see the aquaculture community not only recognising the perennial challenge of sea lice but showing a commitment to investing in new ways of addressing the issue. Collaboration between industry and academia will be crucial to successfully dealing with sea lice through novel approaches and technologies. We’re keen to engage with the widest range of expertise possible to discuss issues and ideas for what can be done.

“Collaboration has continued following the workshop and we have implemented further knowledge-exchange initiatives to support the culture of shared learning. We will continue to encourage organisations involved in Scottish salmon production to share valuable insights and work together for the continued improvement in fish health & welfare, and for the benefit of the whole industry.

Last year, Mowi and Scottish Sea Farms announced a breakthrough in the rearing of cleaner fish – seen by many as a key stage in the process of finding a sustainable solution to dealing with sea lice. Believed to be a world first, the milestone project was originally sponsored by Innovate UK and latterly supported by funding from SAIC and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The development came following more than six years of research which trialled a number of technologies to deal with sea lice, and the terms of the collaboration mean that any future insights are to be shared with the wider sector.

Additional measures and projects to tackle sea lice include the development of permaskirts – a physical barrier to slow the settlement of sea lice larvae – and the use of Thermolicers, which use a short exposure to lukewarm water to remove sea lice from salmon. Deployed by producers including Mowi, and with further support from the EMFF, projects like these have contributed to the lowest levels of sea lice recorded since monitoring began.

Robin Shields added: “While we’ve seen successes in the field over the last few years which have led to a reduction in sea lice numbers, there’s always room for improvement. Given the value of salmon to Scotland’s economy, it’s incumbent upon all of us to work together and look for solutions.”

See our fish health & welfare projects here