Wrasse will be commercially farmed for use in salmon cages. (Photo: efsa.co.uk/SSPO/FIS)
Salmon farmers unite to use Ballan wrasse in cages
Thursday, February 23, 2012, 00:50 (GMT + 9)
The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) and the Meridian Salmon Group have signed a three-year deal with Otter Ferry Seafish Ltd to unprecedentedly have Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) farmed commercially for use in salmon cages.
The agreement will see over 250,000 commercially farmed wrasse deployed in marine sites. Numbers will be split equally between SSC and Meridian and the potential benefits of introducing the wrasse will be analysed.
Wrasse has been proven to reduce sea lice on salmon and thus help reduce the dependency on veterinary treatments. The Ballan wrasse is the most efficient and also eats lice at lower temperatures than other species; a total of 2-5 per cent of wrasse is needed in the sea cages to delouse the salmon.
Until recently, mainly wild-captured wrasse has been used. However, as there is a limited supply of wrasse in the wild and higher catches can pose a threat to the wild fish stocks, farmers have switched to commercially farmed wrasse.
This is one of the first full-scale operations to farm and deploy wrasse in Scotland.
Both companies will introduce the wrasse alongside other husbandry methods that help counter sea lice.
SSC worked with Viking Fish Farms at Ardtoe in 2008 to create the first initial commercial production of Ballan wrasse thereafter co-opted into the Ecofish project.
Simultaneously, Meridian helped start a multi-partner funded pilot project at Otter Ferry that successfully recruited the necessary broodstock and established the protocols required for commercial production of wrasse. Some 15,000 juvenile wrasse have been produced.
Findings from the latest SSC/Meridian project will be shared through the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) to ensure that all developments can benefit the Scottish salmon farming sector.
“This is an important step forward, from both an environmental and industry perspective,” said Dale Hill, head of SSC’s international project group on wrasse which includes production, veterinary and finance specialists.
“The industry is growing and opening up new markets. Regulatory restrictions and ever increasing environmental standards are driving important innovations and it is heartening that Scotland is leading the way,” she added.
Alastair Barge for Otter Ferry expressed gratitude for the support of the two leading Scottish salmon farming companies.
“The success of the project requires an integrated approach and a genuine commitment between the wrasse hatchery and the salmon on-growers. This newly signed agreement is certainly a demonstration of the required level of commitment,” he stated.
“The Crown Estate has again demonstrated its overall support for the industry with a very welcome contribution to the project,” he commented.
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