Aquaculture for all

Survey aims to shed light on performance of larger smolts

Husbandry Hatcheries Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) +12 more

A new project to establish the best practices for the production of large salmon smolts and to assess how these large smolt perform at sea has just been launched by Nofima.

At present a survey process is examining how large smolt produced in recirculating aquaculture systems perform after being released into the sea

© Terje Aamodt, Nofima

The research institute recently sent out questionnaires to smolt suppliers to get an overview of current practices and lessons learned from the production of large smolt. Similar questionnaires are being sent to grow-out producers concerning the performance of smolts after sea transfer. One of the challenges is to link information about hatchery-phase production protocols to post-release performance data.

The project will collect and analyse relevant data about the commercial production of Atlantic salmon from producers in Norway, Chile, Canada, Scotland and the Faroe Islands. Input from producers will be anonymised.

“If you would like to take part but haven’t been contacted, please get in touch with me,” urges Trine Ytrestøyl, a senior scientist at Nofima, in a press release.

During spring, the input from fish producers will be followed up by interviews and discussion meetings with the industry.

By surveying current practice and collecting experiential data, we aim to recommend the best practices for production of large salmon smolt in various scenarios.

This will all be illuminated in a project under the auspices of the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF): ‘Knowledge survey: production of large salmon smolt’, led by Nofima, in collaboration with NORCE, BDO, Åkerblå, Fiskaaling and Avrik.

The project fits well with CtrlAQUA’s ongoing research, as the centre has already conducted research into various industry-relevant smolt-production protocols. CtrlAQUA is a centre for research-driven innovation within closed-containment farming systems. Several aquaculture partners at CtrlAQUA are also taking part in the FHF project by sharing data and lessons learned.

Why is this necessary?

Salmon production is constantly changing to comply with new requirements and meet expectations for fish health, growth and profitability, with several factors affecting producers’ choice of production regimen. The large-scale expansion of onshore facilities makes it possible to keep salmon in closed-containment systems, thereby producing bigger smolt. The intention is to reduce the time salmon spend in marine pens, thus reducing the prevalence of salmon lice and disease.

At present, different producers use multiple protocols to produce large hatchery fish, including different light-regimes, temperature, salt additives, feed and genetics. In addition, smolts are released into the sea at different times of the year, which means that they encounter varying environmental conditions after release.

“Up to now, fish farmers have reported that the sea-based performance of large salmon smolt varies. But the scale of the problems and the factors responsible for the poor performance have not been identified. If production of large smolts for sea transfer is to be an economically viable strategy, it is important to achieve good and predictable growth after sea transfer. In this respect, producers will mutually benefit from being transparent,” said Sven Martin Jørgensen, project manager at FHF.

Assessing how smolts perform after being released to the sea, and how size and production regimen affect the performance, will be a crucial aspect of a survey process that ultimately will generate recommendations for best practices for production of large salmon smolt.

The project began in autumn 2021 and will be completed in autumn 2022. The results will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders throughout the value chain via e-learning courses, webinars and publications.

Getting involved

To take part in the survey contact