The project aims to increase the number of diagnostic tools available to keep fish healthy. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms

Gill health project seeks new diagnostic tools and feeds

A new collaborative project has been co-funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) to help accelerate understanding of gill health issues in farmed salmon and identify new approaches to overcoming these issues.

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Heather Jones: First of a suite of gill health projects.

The project team combines expertise in feed manufacture (BioMar) and salmon farming (Scottish Sea Farms) with fish health expertise at the University of Aberdeen, supported by Marine Scotland Science.

Valued at almost £800,000, with a £284,000 SAIC grant contribution, the two-year gill health project - Clinical Nutrition and Treatment of Atlantic Salmon Gill Diseases - will develop innovative diagnostic tools to precisely monitor the gill condition of salmon in cages.

It will also devise new functional feeds to promote optimum health and welfare.

The new diagnostic tools will enable salmon farmers to fine-tune husbandry practices to the conditions of the marine environment, aided by rapid-response modelling of risk factors.

Innovative tools and solutions

SAIC chief executive Heather Jones said: “As the first of a suite of gill health projects being funded by SAIC, we are delighted to support the experienced academic and industry team to advance our understanding of complex gill disease in Atlantic salmon and to develop innovative surveillance tools and nutritional solutions.”

Elisabeth Aasum: "Gill health is one of the top priorities for BioMar".

Professor Sam Martin of the University of Aberdeen said: “The gill being a complex organ is central to fish health and wellbeing. Using new molecular approaches in this research project, we hope to be able to speed up diagnosis and assess how nutrition can improve gill health in salmon.”

Elisabeth Aasum, global R&D manager health of BioMar, said: “Gill health is one of the top priorities for BioMar, since a strong and healthy fish is the key to a sustainable aquaculture industry.

“Running research and feed development projects in close collaboration with our customers and universities is highly valued, as this increases the knowledge output and ensures applicable feed solutions for the future.”

Ralph Bickerdike, head of fish health at SSF, said: “As responsible farmers, we are constantly exploring new ways to further improve the welfare of the salmon in our care – and this cross-sector collaboration has the potential to do exactly that.

“By increasing our understanding of gill health and the different factors affecting it, this research will help identify ever-more effective approaches to protecting our salmon against this key environmental challenge.”