A major research initiative is to be launched to help understand and prevent diseases affecting farmed salmon – including sea lice and gill health conditions. Tens of millions of pounds are spent annually in response to disease outbreaks at Scottish salmon farms. The £3.5m programme will focus on prevention, rather than treatment.
Farmed salmon is one of Scotland’s biggest food exports, valued at more than £1bn a year. The initiative, backed by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), will focus on two key areas. The first will examine the factors which cause gill damage to occur, such as water quality, farming practices and equipment, with a view to improving prevention.
A second will analyse the genetic characteristics of the salmon to understand why some are more susceptible to disease than others. The research is also supported by the SRUC, Scotland’s rural college, and the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.
Robin Shields, of SAIC, said: “Gill health is up there with sea lice as one of the biggest challenges facing salmon farming, not only in Scotland, but across all salmon-producing countries.
“This is an internationally significant issue, which we’re aiming to address through this focused effort from some of the top minds in the field.