Fish jabs project set to deliver growth in the Scottish salmon industry3rd August 2015

Fish jabs project set to deliver growth in the Scottish salmon industryPhoto: Pablo Gordillo Chueca


The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) is co-funding a vaccination project to enhance the efficacy and welfare of cleaner-fish. By stepping up the ability to control sea lice using cleaner-fish, the project could boost production in the Scottish salmon industry.

Involved in the project are Aqualife, Scottish Sea Farms and the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture.

The context

Increased production in the Scottish salmon could lead to economic growth, the creation of new rural jobs, and a more sustainable industry. However, industry growth requires innovative approaches to existing challenges, such as sea lice control.

This project is part of a suite of activities being rolled out by SAIC to enhance sea lice control on Scottish salmon farms. It involves not salmon themselves, but cleaner-fish, which can cohabit with salmon on fish farms and eat sea lice.

Demand in the salmon industry in Scotland for cleaner-fish species such as wrasse and lumpsuckers (pictured above) is high, due to research demonstrating their success at sea lice control. Providing sufficient cleaner-fish to meet demand requires a major boost in production of robust cleaner-fish that can operate effectively throughout the salmon growth cycle.

The project

This new 18-month project will propose new welfare techniques for vaccinating lumpsucker and wrasse species, aimed at improving their survivability on farms, their robustness, and effectiveness at controlling lice.

As well as evaluating current vaccination methodologies in terms of fish welfare, effects on growth, survival and vaccine efficacy, it will build on those assessments to develop:

  • new protocols for effective and welfare-friendly vaccination techniques
  • novel vaccination equipment for cleaner-fish, based on a prototype salmonid vaccination device under development by Aqualife, a Stirling-based company which vaccinates over 100 million fish annually in Scotland and Norway. Aqualife will adapt the device to the different anatomy and physiology of lumpfish and wrasse, with the intention to improve fish welfare and efficacy, as well as safety for vaccinators.

The project rolls out in August 2015, supported by a grant of £117,000 from SAIC, and contributions worth £168,400 from the other partners involved. Scottish Sea Farms will provide Aqualife and  researchers from the Institute of Aquaculture with access to a range of its marine sites across Orkney, Shetland and the mainland for research to be carried out.

In keeping with SAIC’s principle of open knowledge exchange, all results of the project will be made available to Scottish stakeholders.

The impact

According to Professor Jimmy Turnbull, Deputy Director of the Institute of Aquaculture at Stirling, this project will deliver valuable new insights into cleaner-fish physiologies and welfare, and define optimal vaccination protocols for cleaner-fish species. This will help the industry comply with the requirements of Quality Assurance schemes, as well as support the sector’s commitment to welfare and sustainability.

The project can also create economic growth in the Scottish salmon industry, by  supporting production growth. It’s been estimated that each additional 10,000 tonnes of salmon that reaches the market creates an additional £96 million for the Scottish economy.

“This cleaner-fish vaccination project exemplifies the way SAIC is galvanising researchers to collaborate with SMEs and multinationals on innovative projects that will benefit the industry and the Scottish and UK economy.”
Heather Jones, CEO, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC)

One additional planned outcome of the project for Aqualife is the development of new vaccination devices. This, believes Ronnie Soutar, Managing Director of Aqualife, could pave the way for further adaptations of the project for use on other farmed non-salmonid species such as Mediterranean bass and bream, Asian catfish or North African tilapia.

This could open up many new export markets for Scottish SME Aqualife, which already operates successfully in Norway.

“By supporting innovative projects like this one, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre is delivering invaluable support for the sustainability and ambitions of companies in our sector, including the potential for major international exports.”
Ronnie Soutar, MD, Aqualife



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