New call for proposals: Health and welfare impacts of thermal delicing on farmed salmonids and cleaner fish

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by Sam Houston

Knowledge Exchange Officer

SAIC announces grant funding of up to £150,000 for a collaborative industry-academia project, to ascertain the effects of thermal delicing on fish health and welfare, and to evolve best practices that minimise any negative effects while maintaining effective lice clearance rates.

Competition opens: Monday 9 December 2019

Competition closes: Friday 31 January 2020

Rationale

Thermal delicing has proven to be very effective for controlling sea lice numbers in farmed salmon, and is currently the most widely used non-medicinal treatment in Scotland and Norway. As with any fish handling process, the method poses a risk to health and welfare that must be managed and mitigated, balanced against the excellent lice clearance rates achievable.

Scottish practitioners have been refining their risk assessment methods and operating procedures for thermal delicing since first adoption in 2016, aided by engineering improvements to the systems themselves. Elsewhere, concerns about fish health and welfare – arising from scientific studies – have led the Norwegian Food Safety Authority to assign a two-year window (to August 2021) to demonstrate the safety of thermal delicing or face withdrawal.

While there is currently no equivalent formal review process in Scotland, stakeholders are committed to ensuring high livestock health and welfare during thermal delicing, in line with Scotland’s 10-year Strategic Framework for Farmed Fish Health. SAIC plans to contribute to this via a new innovation project, to bridge knowledge gaps on health and welfare during commercial thermal delicing operations.

Project objectives

The purpose is to provide objective assessment of health and welfare of farmed salmonids and cleaner fish during thermal delicing, and to evolve best practices that minimise any negative effects while maintaining effective lice clearance rates.

The awarded project is expected to –

  • Analyse currently available field records on fish survival, health and welfare during thermal delicing, to prioritise key aspects for new data collection. This should take into account differences in configuration and operation of individual thermal delicing machines;
  • Utilise established operational welfare indicators and measurements of fish physiology and pathology to assess fish health and welfare during commercial thermal delicing operations, incorporating suitable comparisons with untreated populations of fish;
  • Investigate the effects of accumulated exposure to thermal delicing on populations of fish;
  • Deliver effective knowledge exchange during and at the end of the project, to help ensure that recommendations on configuration and operation of thermal delicing systems are embedded in industry best practice.

Guidance

The standard SAIC innovation project model will apply, i.e. an industry-led consortium, with researchers from Scottish HEIs eligible to claim 80% of Full Economic Costs, matched by industry. Governmental research institutions in Scotland are eligible to participate as subcontractors. Partnerships should incorporate multiple fish farming companies using thermal delicing technology, supported by one or more academic research groups specialising in fish health/welfare.

The work programme should complement related fish health and welfare projects in Norway and elsewhere, and take account of new knowledge gained elsewhere during the project.

Project duration: up to 18 months.

Applicants should proceed directly to full project proposal; see application form on this page (under the Governance tab).

Contact Sam Houston for assistance.