Center researches new sea lice control method for salmon farms


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
May 26, 2015

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Center has begun a new research project to study and improve the use of farmed wrasse as “cleaner fish” to control sea lice in commercial salmon farms.

The GBP 4 million (USD million, EUR million) project will explore farming wrasse, a small fish that feeds on sea lice, as an alternative to using wild. The “lice” are actually crustacean parasites that feed off the salmon and have been known to kill crops. In addition, activist groups have accused salmon farmers of allowing sea lice to multiply to the point where they affect sea life in the vicinity of the farm.

Traditional methods of controlling sea lice usually involve pesticides or other harsh chemicals, but wrasse, being natural lice predators, have shown to be effective, but until now most farms that use wrasse have used wild fish.

“The deployment of wrasse as a means to control sea lice should increase the availability of farm sites, reduce medication costs and increase production efficiency,” said Steve Bracken, business support manager at marine harvest (Scotland). “All parts of the industry – from large companies such as ourselves, to small-to-medium enterprises – will see benefits from this, and the already-excellent reputation of Scottish salmon will be enhanced.”

This new project, funded by government grants and contributions from Marine Harvest (Scotland), Scottish Sea Farms, BioMar and the University of Stirling, will explore how to farm and raise wrasse for use in salmon farms.

“The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Center’s support and funding will enable us to extend this project from proof of concept to the commercial environment,” said Hervé Migaud, professor of fish physiology and director of research at the institute of aquaculture at the University of Stirling and academic leader on the project. “The impact of the research will be considerable in both scientific and economic terms. In addition, PhD and Masters students at the institute of aquaculture have the opportunity to gain research expertise in one of the aquaculture industry’s most pressing issues.”

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