U.K. sustainable aquaculture projects land major funding

Published on
June 22, 2015

Researchers from the University of Highlands and Islands were cut a big check for EUR 1 million (USD 1.13 million) by two of the U.K.’s leading research councils as a means to fund ongoing projects that address the key challenges facing the aquaculture sector.

The funding comes courtesy of the Sustainable Aquaculture Initiative and is part of “a national program that aims to build capacity across the aquaculture research sector, with multidisciplinary projects spanning bioscience and environmental science.”

“This is fantastic endorsement of the standard and distinction of research across the University of the Highlands and Islands,” said Michael Rayner, University of the Highlands and Islands dean of research. “Our focus is to make a difference to our environment and economy in our region and these nationally-funded grants acknowledge our expertise and performance in this area, vital to our region and the wider Scottish economy.”

Farming or cultivation in finfish, molluscs and crustaceans are the focus of the university projects that were awarded the sizeable grant. With the value of aquaculture in producing finfish such as salmon and sea trout worth around ERU 580 million per year in the U.K., it has become progressively more important to address the challenges that so often affect farmed stock, like disease and parasite infection.

“The aquaculture industry is a key growth sector but it is important that it develops sustainably. The work being done by our scientists will help ensure that happens,” said Professor Axel Miller, acting director of Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI.

Altogether, 21 new projects have been funded by the two committees – NERC and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – across the U.K., to the tune of EUR 5 million (USD 5.6 million); each endeavor investigates either disease, parasite infections or climate-related changes as they apply to aquaculture.

Per Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Science Director: “To help ensure sustainable aquaculture stocks for society and the economy, a broad research base is needed to understand the biology and health of farmed species. Research focusing on the interactions between industry and the ecosystem is crucial to ensure sustainable production of this healthy and nutritious food source.”

Specifics of the aquaculture projects currently underway at UHI were detailed by Michael Rayner as follows: “Professor Kenneth Black is working on seabed chemistry around marine fish farms; Professor Keith Davidson is looking at warning mechanisms to minimize the risk of harm to aquaculture and human health from algal blooms. Both professors are based at Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI near Oban. Professor Eric Verspoor at our Rivers and Lochs Institute in Inverness is focusing on the identification of parts of the salmon genome which have diverged in farmed as compared to wild Atlantic salmon. This can then be applied to studies of interactions between farmed and wild salmon to understand the genetic basis of salmon domestication.”

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