Cleaner fish

Wrasse and lump­fish pro­duc­ers share best prac­tice as sec­tor moves to next stage

Fish Farmer - - Contents – Editor’s Welcome -

Fu­ture of farm­ing

AWORKSHOP last month to dis­cuss cur­rent prac­tice and progress on the pro­duc­tion and use of cleaner fish at­tracted al­most 90 in­dus­try ex­perts, from across the UK, and from Ire­land and Nor­way. Or­gan­ised by the Scot­tish Salmon Pro­duc­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion and chaired by SSPO tech­ni­cal man­ager Iain Ber­rill, the event, in Stir­ling, was one in a se­ries of reg­u­lar SSPO tech­ni­cal meet­ings.

This one co­in­cided with the con­clu­sion of the Scot­tish Aqua­cul­ture In­no­va­tion Cen­tre (SAIC) spon­sored project to up­scale the pro­duc­tion of farmed bal­lan wrasse.

The gath­er­ing was aimed at shar­ing the lat­est knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ences on both wrasse and lump­fish cul­ture and their use on farms, as well as dis­sem­i­nat­ing the find­ings from the SAIC ini­tia­tive.

The day-long sem­i­nar fea­tured an overview on pro­duc­tion from the main cleaner fish pro­duc­ers - Dougie Hunter of Mowi,Alastair Barge of Ot­ter Ferry, Rob Smith of the Univer­sity of Swansea, Richard Prick­ett of Dorset Clean­er­fish Com­pany, and Daniel Phillips of Ocean Mat­ters, the An­gle­sey com­pany re­cently ac­quired by Mowi.

They all shared their ex­pe­ri­ence on the farm, and there were updates from Ire­land and Nor­way as well, said Ber­rill.

Wrasse re­mains a more chal­leng­ing species to farm than lump­fish but good progress is be­ing made.

With lump­fish, the in­dus­try is nearer to meet­ing de­mand and up­scal­ing has been much eas­ier than with wrasse.

The SAIC wrasse project, at Machri­han­ish near Camp­bel­town, was a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Mowi, Scot­tish Sea Farms, BioMar and the In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture, and won the re­cent Aqua­cul­ture Award 2019 for Ap­plied Re­search Break­through, af­ter clos­ing the life cy­cle for cap­tive bal­lan wrasse.

Many of the big ob­sta­cles in wrasse cul­ture and use have now been over­come, said Ber­rill, with im­prove­ments in ju­ve­nile and on-farm feed­ing, for ex­am­ple, and clos­ing the life cy­cle.

‘But it is one thing to close the cy­cle of the fish, you then have to en­sure that the eggs you are get­ting out are of the high­est pos­si­ble qual­ity,’ he said.

There is still re­search to be done to as­sure the best qual­ity fish from the cap­tive brood­stock, and scal­ing up is the next stage to move from a mod­est pro­duc­tion to a larger scale for use on farms across the sec­tor, to re­duce reliance on wild stocks.

Most com­pa­nies use cleaner fish but there is a lim­ited pool of fa­cil­i­ties, and peo­ple, pro­duc­ing them, said Ber­rill.

Sev­eral salmon farm­ers - Mowi, Scot­tish Sea Farms and the Scot­tish Salmon Com­pany - are in­volved in col­lab­o­ra­tions with third party cleaner fish providers, but the whole in­dus­try would en­cour­age more providers.

Some of the farms that were pre­vi­ously used for marine fin­fish pro­duc­tion have been ren­o­vated for cleaner fish but there are likely to be more fa­cil­i­ties in the UK that could be re­pur­posed, said Ber­rill.

Mowi is set­ting up cleaner fish pro­duc­tion at the for­mer An­gle­sey Aqua­cul­ture site in Pen­man on An­gle­sey, once a sea bass farm, and lo­cated close to Ocean Mat­ters.

The com­pany also won plan­ning permission last year to build a new wrasse hatch­ery at Machri­han­ish, next to its ex­ist­ing plant.

The Stir­ling work­shop was ad­dressed by Ron­nie Hawkins from Mowi and Daniel Car­ca­jona from Scot­tish Sea Farms, who de­scribed their ex­pe­ri­ences us­ing lump­fish and wrasse on farms.

“These are still new species of fish and we will work tire­lessly to over­come the chal­lenges”

They dis­cussed how farm in­fra­struc­ture must be ready for the cleaner fish, and the staff on the site fully trained, said Ber­rill, adding that this kind of ex­change of in­for­ma­tion is key to progress.

The meet­ing also heard from Nor­we­gian firm OK Marine on de­vel­op­ments in cleaner fish farm­ing tech­nol­ogy.

Fur­ther in­sights into the health and wel­fare of both species were pro­vided by Carolina Gu­tier­rez-Rabadan, of the Univer­sity of Swansea, Fe­lix Scholz of the Fish Vet Group, So­nia Rey Planel­las of the In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture (IoA), and An­to­nios Chalaris of BioMar, who talked about what cleaner fish need to eat.

Turn­ing to wild stocks, Lewis Ben­nett of Loch Duart high­lighted the work that has been go­ing on with the poli­cies es­tab­lished by Marine Scot­land and, in the south, the IFCAs (In­shore Fish­eries and Con­ser­va­tion Author­i­ties).

The sec­tor has been en­gag­ing with these bod­ies and en­sur­ing a flow of in­for­ma­tion. In Scot­land, salmon farm­ers have signed up to a suite of vol­un­tary mea­sures and the pro­vi­sion of data, which is ‘over and above what is legally re­quired’, said Ber­rill.

‘Hope­fully, that will help re­as­sure some [peo­ple] of the sus­tain­abil­ity of the fish­ery.We don’t have any ev­i­dence of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern over stocks.

‘We only take a cer­tain size range and the rest go back, so there is a care­ful bal­ance to en­sure you still have fish com­ing through and a good breed­ing pop­u­la­tion.’

Ben­nett also re­ferred to a new re­search project with Ce­fas in the south-west fish­ery, look­ing at the age and size of breed­ing.This will sup­port the fish­ing sea­son they are adopt­ing in the south and in Scot­land.

Ber­rill said the work­shop had been very pro­duc­tive:‘Mak­ing sure there is a good flow of in­for­ma­tion between in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies is key and these sum­mits help in that process.

‘On health and wel­fare, these are still new species of fish and we will work tire­lessly to over­come the chal­lenges.We are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

‘Later this year, we hope to re­view and up­date as­pects of the Code of Good Prac­tice that cover cleaner fish, which need con­tin­ual up­grad­ing as our knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence grows.’

Af­ter the SSPO meet­ing, held at the Stir­ling Court Ho­tel on May 22, there was a fur­ther sem­i­nar the fol­low­ing day, hosted by the In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture, which fo­cused more specif­i­cally on the re­search out­puts.

The IoA’s Herve Mi­gaud and An­drew Davie, who pre­sented the lat­est R&D on both cleaner fish species at the SSPO work­shop, con­sid­ered the next phase of cleaner fish re­search.

Above: Farm­ers and fish health pro­fes­sion­als at the work­shop. Op­po­site: The meet­ing pro­vided a good ex­change of ideas

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