The first day consisted of a national overview of the developments in cleanerfish deployment by a key player from each of the five countries represented. While each representative gave their own unique perspective – based on their own experiences and the factors governing their relevant nations – a number of common themes emerged.
One was the importance of ensuring that those working at sites containing cleanerfish were supportive of the idea. Cleanerfish can cause a great deal of extra work for site staff, but “as soon as they see the cleanerfish are working the site managers are hooked,” reflected Chris Hempleman from Scottish Sea Farms, who spoke about how the industry was evolving in Scotland.
Another was the need to only use farmed cleanerfish in the long run. In Ireland, where cleanerfish have only been deployed since late 2015, all the wrasse used by the country’s largest producer are still wild-caught, but 100% of the lumpsuckers are now farmed. Elsewhere, the trend also seems to be moving in the right direction – in Scotland companies such as Scottish Sea Farms “now have the confidence and the capacity to stock purely farmed wrasse at some sites,” Chris Hempleman reflected.
Meanwhile, in Norway, 57% of the 26.4 million cleanerfish (wrasse and lumpsuckers) deployed in 2015 were farmed, up from 16% of the 16.2 million cleanerfish deployed in 2013, according to Olav Breck, from Marine Harvest Norway. “We need to move towards using entirely farmed, vaccinated cleanerfish,” he argued.
A third theme was the need for more cleanerfish to be produced. Every year Norway alone requires over 40 million cleanerfish to cope with the 400 million smolts stocked annually, according to Olav Breck. “It’s all about numbers, no company has enough cleanerfish at the moment,” added Chris Hempleman.
Looking ahead, the need to improve survival rates of cleanerfish was seen as a further goal – not only by improving husbandry techniques, feeds and vaccines for cleanerfish species but also, in the longer run, by the development of selective breeding programmes.
“Give us 15 years – ie five generations of cleanerfish – to bring down the mortality rate. It’s a new species and will take time,” argued Dr Jonas Jonasson, CEO of StofnFiskur, who spoke about cleanerfish production in Iceland. "But the key is to have a plan in place to demonstrate that they’re improving,” he added.
Other challenges discussed were unique to individual countries – Ireland hasn’t had access to any licenced cleanerfish vaccines since 2015 revealed Sandra Schlittenhardt of Marine Harvest; while legislation in the Faroes means that they have no domestic cleanerfish farms in operation, but instead need to import all their lumpfish from producers in Iceland, such as StofnFiskur, explained Kirstin Eliasen of Fiskaaling.
Reflecting on the event, Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, said: “Greater sea lice control has been one of our priorities since day one, as has sharing the insights gleaned from SAIC-supported projects with the wider Scottish aquaculture sector. So to see our industry and academic partners exchange the knowledge being gained with their industry and international peers is a truly landmark moment.”
A range of partners from participating countries – including gold partners Scottish Sea Farms; silver partners BioMar and StofnFiskur; and bronze partners AquaGen, EWOS, HiddenFjord, Patogen and Skretting – helped to make the not-for-profit event possible. Meanwhile, exhibitors include Aquality, JETE Innovation, OK Marine, Pacific Trading and Skjerneset fisk AS.