SAIC Gill health workshop15th December 2016

SAIC Gill health workshop

By Donald Fowler, Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC.

SAMS’ Scottish Marine Institute in Oban was the inspiring setting for the latest in a series of industry workshops by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC). The subject under the microscope? Gill health.

Over 60 delegates from industry and academia attended the one-day event which consisted of a morning of presentations and research synopsis, followed in the afternoon by break-out sessions and a group discussion on the priorities for innovation.

Heather Jones, SAIC CEO, opened the workshop by noting that gill health is complex issue, and urgently requires solutions that recognise and address this.

The mic was then handed over to the first of the day’s speakers, Iain Berrill of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), who highlighted the organisation’s active role in information exchange on gill health, stating that research traditionally tries to simplify systems in order to investigate them  but that what is needed here is innovation that considers gill health, not individual health challenges in isolation.

Next onto the stage was Sandra Adams of the Institute of Aquaculture (IoA) at the University of Stirling who shared the areas of primary and secondary focus identified at the recent Gill Health Initiative meeting. These included standardisation of diagnostic and monitoring methods, linking environmental factors to gill problems and the need for standardisation of treatments.

Hamish Rodger, Fish Vet Group, was the first keynote speaker of the day, providing a succinct review of gill disease and its economic impact – now thought to be greater than that associated with sea lice. Stating that gill health problems make sea lice even more difficult to manage, Hamish went on to identify the biological pathogens and causative agents; the reactions of gills to injury and responses; and repair and diagnosis. He then highlighted the production cycle calendar of gill health pathology and summarised the knowledge gaps for complex gill disease as:

  • Epidemiology and risk factors
  • Use of molecular microbiology in the development of effective controls
  • Identification and isolation of pathogens and how they interact
  • The risks of biofouling and farm management practices such as net cleaning
  • Why chronic disease develops
  • Differential diagnosis issues
  • Control methods.

The second keynote speaker of the day was Karin Pittman from the University of Bergen, who began by highlighting the importance of healthy mucosa in salmonids, and the effect of good diet on the ability of mucosa to withstand challenge from pathogens and the environment.

That done, Karin shared details of a platform-based approach developed by her spin-out company, Quantidoc AS; a quantitative histological method for assessment of skin, guts and gill tissues that can be used to assess the status of mucosal cells in response to treatments, as well as vulnerability to disease and its application to gill health.

Research synopsis
Following a short break, delegates then heard a synopsis of current research underway in the area of gill health.

Sophie Fridman from the IoA spoke about why previous amoebic gill disease (AGD) vaccines have failed, as well as the latest vaccine research on AGD. Callum Whyte from UHI-SAMS talked about harmful algal blooms and surveillance bulletins, and the scope for further industry-academic co-operation to allow mitigation measures to be activated.

Ross Davidson from the SRUC, who is seeking industry partners, presented disease epidemiology and the application of epidemiological disease models, highlighting their use in other animal disease and their application to gill health issues – for example, quantifying risk and variability, evaluating disease management options and the development of decision support tools.

Bringing the presentations to a close, Diego Robledo from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh provided an update on genomics and selective breeding approaches to AGD in salmon, and how resistance to AGD is polygenic, and highlighted areas for further investigation.

Break-out sessions
The afternoon saw delegates assigned to one of three break-out groups – Slimers, Clingers or Stingers – where they discussed the key areas for innovation and investment, before re-convening for a group discussion facilitated by SAIC’s Aquaculture Innovation Director Jason Cleaversmith on the output of those break-out sessions.

Call for Expressions of Interest
Jason brought the workshop to a close by opening the call for Expressions of Interest (open to all, not just those attending on the day) for industry-led, multi-disciplinary projects addressing gill health challenges.

The deadline for submitting short, preliminary Expressions of Interest is 23 December 2016 and 31 January 2017 for full proposals – a tight timeline but one that reflects the importance of activating projects ahead of 2017 seasonal gill health challenges.

For guidance on the application process, click here. For those not able to attend the workshop, a summary of the highest-ranking themes identified during the break-out and group discussions is available to download below.

and tagged , , , .