Optimising the use of lumpfish as biological control of sea lice in salmon farms

CSAR has fostered a leading role in supporting sustainable development of salmon aquaculture, via innovative co-operation with Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd and The Cleaner Fish Company Ltd.

Salmon lice are crustacean parasites that attach to the skin of salmon, causing lesions that can reduce health, growth and survival. Sea lice infestation can also compromise fish welfare and its treatment costs the salmon industry in the region of €300m every year and £30m every year in the UK alone. The parasite is endemic, and companies across the salmon industry are working together proactively to prevent or reduce the severity of lice outbreaks via appropriate management. Oral and bath therapeutics are used, however lice have increasingly developed resistance. The disease is fast becoming the primary threat to salmon farming, at a time when demand for Atlantic salmon is increasing - from one million tonnes in 2002 to over two million tonnes in 2012.

In the search for a sustainable and effective alternative to use of medicines for treating sea lice, deployment of “cleaner fish” into salmon pens has been investigated. The lumpfish, (Cyclopterus lumpus) has recently been noted for its efficacy as a cleaner fish species, particularly in the cold months during winter and spring. CSAR has a leading role in supporting this cutting-edge development.

The project at CSAR brings together industry and academia to further investigate the potential of lumpfish for use as cleaner fish, and to develop methods of sustainable production of juvenile lumpfish for use in commercial salmon farming.

Following a pilot scale project in 2014 which yielded approx. 8,000 juvenile lumpfish suitable for deployment directly into Scottish salmon pens, CSAR production in 2015 reached in excess of 1.2 million larvae for on-growing at a number of Scottish sites, for a deployment size of 10-15g. A further 130,000 juveniles were raised to 15g at CSAR. These fish were transported and deployed to salmon farms in Scotland through the autumn. Production in 2016 has followed a similar trend, with the successful and continued rearing of over 400,000 juvenile lumpfish 


For more information please contact Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz or Paul Howes