The projects aim to boost the numbers, quality and welfare of farmed cleaner fish used in commercial salmon farms to control sea lice. Direct economic impacts are expected to include increased productivity at salmon production sites, and reduced reliance on medicines to control lice.
Other benefits of the project could include the creation of new rural jobs, and address concerns about potential environmental impacts of salmon production.
The first project will focus on boosting the numbers and quality of farmed wrasse, used as cleaner fish to control sea lice.
The project proposal was submitted by a consortium of Marine Harvest Scotland, Scottish Sea Farms and Biomar. The academic partner is the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling. The project is worth £4.05 million over three years, with 21 per cent of the cost coming from SAIC, 74 per cent provided by the industrial partners and the balance from the University of Stirling.
Given the potential importance of the project results to the Scottish salmon industry, the consortium has agreed to operate under the principle of open knowledge exchange.
Independent evaluation of the project by the SAIC Independent Scientific Panel members commented that the proposal was “an outstanding example of innovative science with academics working closely with industrial partners” and that “there is no doubt that this project is strategically important for the salmon industry and the Scottish economy in general.”
The second project to be funded by SAIC will assess an innovative method of cleaner fish vaccination, which will improve efficacy and fish welfare. Survival of cleaner fish on commercial salmon farms is critically important from both commercial and welfare viewpoints.
The proposal was submitted by Aqualife, a Scottish-owned SME which is a global leader in fish health and vaccination, with Scottish Sea Farms as the other commercial partner. The academic partner is the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling.
SAIC has awarded the project a grant of £116,801, equivalent to 37 per cent of the project cost. Other contributions in cash and kind, worth £237,000, are provided by the University of Stirling and industry participants.
Both projects will be formally launched later this year, and further details of both projects will be made available at their official launch, at dates to be announced.
Commenting on the funding announcement, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, said: “The Innovation Centres are Scotland’s distinctive approach to nurturing real-world collaboration between industry and academia that have the potential to create long-term economic growth. This announcement by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre encapsulates that approach. Through its support for these two important projects for the Scottish aquaculture sector, it has generated substantial investment and ambition from industry and researchers.”
Jack Perry, Chair of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, commented: “The SAIC funding for these projects has galvanised other investment worth well over £3.4 million. They are outstanding examples of how the industry-researcher collaboration promoted by SAIC can bring benefits not just for the commercial sector, but also for rural communities, the environment, and the Scottish economy.”
Alan Sutherland, Managing Director of Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd, said: “There is sound evidence that wrasse are extremely effective at controlling sea lice and this collaboration will greatly benefit the whole Scottish industry. Using wrasse is set to revolutionise the aquaculture industry and will become standard practice for all salmon farmers in the future, generating significant commercial and economic benefits for the whole industry.”
Jim Gallagher, Managing Director of Scottish Sea Farms, added: “The increased use of cleaner fish for lice control can greatly contribute to the sustainability ambitions of the salmon industry. Both these projects illustrate the capacity of applied research to support the salmon industry, and we greatly welcome the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre’s contribution to their progress.”
Ronnie Soutar, MD of Aqualife, said: “As an SME, this opportunity to collaborate with academia in a project with direct welfare benefits for farmed fish is particularly exciting. The SAIC has allowed us to participate in world-leading practical research in a way which ties in very well with our strategy of quality-based development.”
Professor Edmund Burke, Senior Deputy Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “I am delighted that the University of Stirling’s internationally-renowned research capabilities in aquaculture are contributing to two projects that will potentially create significant economic and societal benefits for Scotland. Universities have an important role to play in driving forward progress in key sectors of the Scottish economy, and these two project announcements exemplify that.”