A project to research the potential of using kelp perch and pile perch to pick sea lice off farmed Atlantic salmon is one of three to land funding from British Columbia’s salmon farmers this week.
The independent Science Advisory Council of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) has approved $170,000 in funding, split between the cleanerfish project, one on sea lice infestation patterns and another which aims to help develop vaccines against a number of pathogens affecting farm-raised salmon in the province.
The cleanerfish project, which was initiated last year, will involve participants from the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS), Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre (VAMSC), Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood BC and Marine Harvest Canada. While, the use of cleanerfish is a proven method of managing sea lice in salmon culture in Norway and Scotland, this research is the first on fish native to BC waters. Several preliminary trials — conducted at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research — determined that both kelp perch and pile perch will clean sea lice off experimentally infested salmon. Researchers looked at differences in cleaning activity between the two species of perch and in different sizes of the perch, and at cleaning preferences in terms of sea lice life history, location of sea lice on salmon, and behavior of cleaning in the lab.
The second project is entitled “Spatial and temporal patterns of sea lice infestations on wild and farm-raised salmon on the British Columbia coast”. Involving participants from the University of Prince Edward Island/Atlantic Veterinary College and University of St Andrews, it will involve analyzing data from several monitoring programs along the BC coast from 2001-2016 – the single largest dataset of its kind in the world. The analysis of these data should provide an integrated picture of sea lice infestation patterns on wild salmon populations in BC, and allow for a more complete investigation of the factors contributing to spatial and temporal variations in infestations.
Investigation of these patterns in more detail will improve the knowledge of sea lice population dynamics on wild salmon, which may also provide for a better understanding of sea lice exchanges between farmed and wild salmon populations, in both directions.
The third project is entitled “Isolation of Aeromonas salmonicida and Piscirikettsia salmonis from farmed and wild salmonids in BC to support diagnostic test evaluation and epidemiological studies” and will involve the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS), Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Elanco.
This project aims to help understand the genomics of pathogens endemic to British Columbia that are having an effect on farm-raised salmon. The genomic data for these pathogens will inform the development of vaccine and treatment methods, as well as enable the identification of previously unrecognized genomic features such as plasmids in BC isolates. The research team will develop specific diagnostic assays to detect the pathogens in samples of fish and later environment. In this way, mitigation strategies that include reducing therapeutant use, siting, migratory passage timing and pathogen flow can be developed.
“The BCSFA Science Advisory Council has facilitated a number of important research collaborations that are starting to provide great insight into our local ocean environment, wild salmon, and furthering sustainable innovations in aquaculture,” said Jeremy Dunn, Executive Director, BC Salmon Farmers Association. “Salmon aquaculture has always been an industry that values quality science done in an objective and transparent manner.”