University of Stirling, Mowi team up on cleaner fish vaccination project

Mowi and the University of Stirling are collaborating to research fish health solutions for the ballan wrasse, a cleaner fish used in aquaculture.

A team of researchers have been given funding to research optimizing the formulation and delivery of vaccines to ballan wrasse, which could increase the use of the cleaner fish to control sea lice infestations in Scottish salmon farms.

Led by the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture and salmon producer Mowi, the consortium is to explore factors that determine the best possible conditions for delivering vaccinations against Aeromonas salmonicida, a bacterium which can cause potentially fatal outbreaks of disease in cleaner fish.

They will look at alternative formulations of the vaccine, which is currently given to the fish at the hatchery stage, in the hope of finding better protection against disease. A primary aim is to determine the most-effective composition of antigens to elicit the best immune response in juvenile fish. 

The researchers will also consider the best timing and method of delivering the vaccine. Ideally, this will be through immersion, which is easier to administer than injections, according to University of Stirling Research Fellow Sean Monaghan.

“Enhancing vaccines for Aeromonas salmonicida could represent a significant step forward in the use of ballan wrasse in aquaculture. We know that prevention is better than cure and we are, therefore, working towards the development of more effective vaccine formulations and protocols that can be used by hatcheries and producers to improve fish welfare,” Monaghan said.

The project also has the support of Otter Ferry Seafish, Ceva Ridgeway Biologicals, and the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).

Mowi Technical Director Dougie Hunter said that alongside lumpfish, ballan wrasse are excellent cleaner fish, and a natural solution to effectively manage sea lice on the producer’s salmon.

“For us to give these fish the best environment and welfare, we must protect them again stress and disease, including infection caused by Aeromonas salmonicida, which can be observed in wrasse from an early stage,” he said. “Mowi’s collaboration with Scotland’s leading fish health and vaccine experts and SAIC will be vital in finding the best vaccination strategies to enhance wrasse health protection.”  

Photo courtesy of the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Center


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