Salmon thrive in Shetland lice shield trial
THE introduction of lice shields at a Scottish salmon farm has resulted in a healthy crop that has outperformed all previous years.
Scottish Sea Farms installed the preventative measure at its farm at Slocka, Ronas Voe, on Shetland in May 2017.
In the nine months since, sea lice levels have remained below the Marine Scotland Code of Good Practice threshold, and the salmon are showing strong growth and biological performance, said the company.
Specially engineered to suit Scottish marine conditions, each shield consists of a permeable fabric that lets water and oxygen move freely into fish pens while keeping natural health threats out.
This fabric fully encases the pen to a depth of 6m, providing a barrier against sea lice which are most commonly found in the first few metres below the water’s surface.
Such has been the effectiveness of the shields that Scottish Sea Farms has now invested over £800,000 with two Scottish suppliers – William Milne Tarpaulins in Aberdeen and W&J Knox in Ayrshire – in order to roll out similar protection to 11 of its other farms.The company is also ELEworking with neighbouring salmon growers to synchronise the use of the shields, as part of a farm management agreement for those areas.
Jim Gallagher, managing director of Scottish Sea Farms, said:‘We strive, wherever possible, to replicate the natural conditions that salmon are known to thrive in.As any farmer will understand, however, this comes with its own risks as the marine environment presents new challenges all the time.We are continually exploring and investing in new ways of dealing with these challenges, and it’s hugely encouraging to see positive early results such as these at our trial project in Shetland.’
This latest advance is part of a wider £11.8 million investment in 2017 by the company to enhance the health and welfare of its salmon – over 85 per cent of which is being spent on non-medicinal approaches.The company said six of its farms required no sea lice interventions at all during 2017.
Scottish Sea Farms has also invested approximately £200,000 in environmental data monitoring equipment, as well as more than £260,000 on underwater camera systems, to combat new planktonic organisms potentially harmful to gill health.