One of the greatest barriers to aquaculture’s expansion is the threat of disease and pests, which can quickly spread amid any group of living creatures, particularly in aquatic environments. When it comes to salmon and trout farming, sea lice is the most common of these.
The little pests are a type of copepod and occur on wild salmon as well as farmed. While small, there is little threat to the host fish, but as they grow they become lethal. Sea lice has been known to completely devastate a salmon farmer’s crop, and so discovering a solution to this pest that is also acceptable to the general public could be a major win for the aquaculture industry.
Currently, there are two treatments for aquaculture fish with sea lice: a freshwater bath or a hydrogen peroxide bath (a compound made of 2 Hydrogens and 2 Oxygens that quickly breaks down into water), both of which kill the sea lice. It is worth mentioning that these treatments are approved by the USFDA and that bathed fish are indeed healthy for consumption. But a new project funded by Scottish seafood companies and academics aims to determine what happens when the freshwater and hydrogen peroxide are used in conjunction.
Marine Harvest Canada first made use of a diluted hydrogen peroxide bath in 2014, resulting in 95% of the lice removed after one treatment. Because the company adheres to industry standards, which includes narrow use of medications, the product is used sparingly.
The anticipated benefits of the 12-month, $324,161 project include better sea lice control for the aquaculture industry, which will also lead to reduced use of medicines and shorter treatment times, all of which enhance fish health and deliver higher production volumes.
The CEO of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), a co-founder of the project, says the goal has brought salmon and trout producers together to solve a key problem that could stand to benefit the entire sector.