The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Research project to put new focus on gill disease
Aquaculture: Group explore factors affecting sites in Scotland and Tasmania
A Scottish research group has launched a project aimed at significantly improving the global aquaculture industry’s understanding and treatment of fish gill disease.
The hope is that its work on tackling the potentially fatal condition will deliver major husbandry benefits – and greater profits in the long run.
The group includes experts from salmon farmer Scottish Sea Farms (SSF), Aberdeen University, aquaculture feed firm BioMar and the Stirling University-based Scottish
“The more we learn about how to protect these vital organs the better”
Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).
The project will explore the geographical, temporal, and nutritional factors affecting salmon’s gill health at sites in Scotland and Tasmania, Australia.
It is thought to be affected by factors ranging from sitespecific variables and fish diet to water temperature and oxygenation levels.
Warming seas and progressive de-oxygenation of water have stressed the need to better understand gill disease, and heightened interest in finding new prevention and treatment methods.
The researchers aim to find the optimum conditions for promoting good fish health, while improving natural resistance to gill disease.
They will also create “biomarkers” to monitor the condition, develop diagnostic tools that may minimise individual interpretation of results and explore the production of feeds to bolster health.
SSF has salmon farms along the west coast, as well as in Orkney and Shetland.
Ralph Bickerdike, head of fish health at the firm, said: “The gills play a crucial role in the overall health of a fish. So, the more we learn about how best to protect these vital organs, the bigger the advances we can make to further improve welfare and increase survival rates.
“What’s exciting about this latest collaborative research project is that it takes a holistic view, exploring not just the key factors affecting the gills but also how they might impact on one another, helping us to identify the best growing conditions for farmed fish health.”
Professor Samuel Martin of Aberdeen University’s school of biological sciences said: “The gill is a key organ with roles in oxygen exchange, but also has extremely important function for fish health.
This project, working directly with industry, will help define how gill health varies between farm sites and at different times of the year.
“The outcomes will lead to better understanding and early warning for gill health issues.”
SAIC aquaculture innovation manager Caroline Griffin added: “Gill health is among the foremost challenges facing aquaculture across all salmon-producing regions of the world.
“The project is about finding a way of using the vast amounts of data collected to create the right balance of conditions for salmon, enhancing their resilience.
“On top of that, the development of biomarkers and new feeds could act as a significant boost to fish health and wellbeing, and our overall understanding of this complex disease.”