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Team of scientists that participates in the research project.

Parasitic transmission between farmed and wild fish analyzed

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Thursday, February 07, 2019, 00:40 (GMT + 9)

A team of scientists aims to develop recommendations to reduce the transmission of parasites between farmed and wild fish, in order to improve animal health and welfare in aquaculture farms.

Aquaculture farm in the open sea.

In offshore aquaculture farms species of farmed fish, such as gilthead seabream, European seabass or croaker, and wild species, such as bogue, mullet, sardinella or mackerel, share numerous parasites, since the containement nets of farmed fish can not retain parasitic forms because of their size.

The identification of the parasitic species that infect wild and farmed fish in several marine areas of the Valencian Community and the Canary Islands, is the main objective of the research of a team of professors from the Veterinary School of the CEU Cardenal Herrera University, which counts with the collaboration of the Biodiversity Foundation, of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, through the High Water Program, co-financed by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Aquaculture facilities in the Canary Islands. (Photo: Fisheries Department of the Canary Islands)

"Fish kept in cages of marine aquaculture farms can be part of the biological cycle of the parasites of wild fish around, and vice versa," explains Professor Jordi López, principal investigator of the project. "In cultured fish that are parasitized, the cycle ends at the time of harvest, thus controlling the parasite spread. But this does not happen when the parasitized species is free-living, since its diffusion and virulence can not be controlled."

Therefore, once the parasitic species that infect wild and farmed fish have been identified in the areas of Castellón, Alicante and Canarias, the CEU UCH researchers will elaborate a series of recommendations so that the aquaculture farms studied in these maritime areas can minimize the risk of infection and thus reduce the spread of parasitic forms in the marine environment, contributing to the preservation of marine biodiversity. 

According to Professor Jordi López, "the knowledge acquired with this project will be of great importance, mainly for the national aquaculture sector, and also for the rest of European producers, since it will provide information on the interactions of parasites among the species reared in aquaculture farms in the open sea and the wild species present around them ".

"Besides," he adds, "knowledge will be provided about the parasitosis in the marine ecosystem and about the biological cycles of the different parasites. Finally, the establishment of practices in aquaculture farms that minimize the transfer of parasites to wild populations will undoubtedly benefit the marine environment."

The project will be developed during 12 months in the Levantine-Balearic marine demarcation, specifically in aquaculture facilities in the open sea of the provinces of Castellón and Alicante, and also in the Canarian marine demarcation, in aquaculture facilities located on the islands of Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma.

Official support

The CEU UCH project contemplates the design of a "phototraping" prototype to analyze the marine fauna around the cages of the aquaculture farms of the areas under study, which will be formed by several cameras that can take sequential underwater photos to see the different species found in the surroundings. With the results of the parasitological study in gills and digestive system of the intrapen and extrapen species, the parasitic interactions and potential transmission hazards for the wild fauna will be determined.

Source: DICYT Agency

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