Operational Welfare Score Index for farmed lumpfish
Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus L.) are widely used for controlling sea lice in salmon farming, but their welfare is often challenged by poor husbandry, stress, and disease outbreaks, which compromise their ability to delouse salmon and cause public concern. In this new study by Carolina Gutierrez-Rabadan and co-authors present the first validated, peer-reviewed operational index of welfare for farmed lumpfish; report the results for 6 commercial sites and shows that 29% of lumpfish have compromised or poor welfare and identify the main welfare problems and suggest remedial actions.
Novel qPCR assay to detect and quantify Nucleospora cyclopteri in lumpfish
Dr Tamsyn Uren Webster and co-authors have recently developed a novel qPCR assay to detect and quantify Nucleospora cyclopteri in lumpfish. This novel assay identified high prevalence of the infection among asymptomatic fish. All analyzed tissues were affected, including blood, suggesting systemic infection. Asymptomatic lumpfish had much lower parasite loads than those with macroscopic signs of infection.
Cortisol - a stress related hormone, disrupts the gut microbiome in salmon. This can cause poor fish health - check out our new publication by Tamsyn Uren Webster and co-authors. This paper also highlights the value of using non-invasive faecal samples to monitor stress, and simultaneous determination of cortisol and stress-responsive bacteria.
New paper on the Highly Invasive Topmouth Gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva)
Invasive species reproduce a lot, grow fast, and they are not fussy about food. Check our article on the aquatic invasive species Topmouth Gudgeon, Matteo Rolla and co-authors show SIA can be used to prioritize eradicatio measures
A drop in the ocean
A drop in the ocean: Monitoring fish communities in spawning areas using environmental DNA. We are very happy to share this new publication. Congratulation to Frances Ratcliff and co-authors. Please check the OpenAccess article
Nature make us happy: let’s bring it to our cities
The Biophilic Living Swansea project aims to bring nature into our living urban space and make us happier and healthier.
We spend 90% of our lives in buildings. If you think this is because of the coronavirus, think again – the data was collected in the early nineties in the USA. With the recent lockdowns our worlds have suddenly shrunk to the size of our homes – if you have one. Although it seems we are an indoor modern society, we know walks in the park, hikes in the forest and strolls along the beach relieve stress. The lockdown has proven that spending time in nature is essential for our wellbeing and mental health - it has a soothing effect, and we really need this in times of COVID and beyond.
Should we then re-think the design of our buildings? BIOPHILIC LIVING AT PICTON YARD SWANSEA is committed to implement this vision of conserving and celebrating nature in urban spaces. The Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) is proud to be part of this project. This is a radical new approach to living and working in the city, it will provide affordable new homes and workspaces alongside a community urban farm in the heart of Swansea. This farm will include greens but also fish.
CSAR will be involve in the design and setting up of an aquaponic system - the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system.
This project by Hacer Developments has been designed by Powell Dobson Architects in Swansea. The concept is the result of extensive collaborative working among a range of local organisations, including Swansea University, the Active Building Centre, Public Health Wales, Swansea Community Farm and Sero Homes Ltd.
Meet Dr Teja Muha: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Awards finalists
We are super proud of Dr Teja Muha, she is a finalist to the The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions2020.HR AWARDS. To honour the outstanding achievements and excellence of the MSCA fellows, the MSCA 2020.HR AWARDS will be awarded on the 19th of June.
Dr Teja Muha did her PhD throught the Aquainvade-ED project at Swansea University, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research. She developed and optimised novel methods (environmental DNA barcoding and metabarcoding) for the early detection of freshwater and marine aquatic invasive species.
Join Prof. Garcia de Leaniz on this fascinating talk where he will reveal the true extent of river fragmentation and provide meaningful information to help managers reconnect rivers across Europe. __________________________________________________
WHERE: Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution WHEN: Thursday 19 March 2020 7:30 pm PRICE: Visitors £5, Members & Students £2 More info here Picture credits: Sara Barrento ___________________________________________________
Fragmentation of migratory fishing habitat is increasing worldwide
One of the main newspapers in The Netherlands - de Volkskrant - highlights the work carried out by Prof. Carlos Garcia de Leaniz on river fragmentation. Our rivers have barriers - they are disconnected from the sea. Weirs, small hydropower or big dams provide water, irrigation, energy production, and flood protection. But barriers block rivers, fragment waterways, isolate habitats and weaken wildlife populations. In just 3 years, AMBER delivered the first Atlas of river barriers across Europe.
Below is a brief translation from this news article; the original online edition (3rd February 2020) can be found here "Because the authors only look at the effect of large dams, they underestimate the actual extent of the fragmentation, reacts Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, professor of aquatic life sciences at the University of Swansea. If data on small dams are included in the overview, it will appear that the degree of fragmentation is greater. "We also have to watch out for small dams." Despite the "inevitable" limitations, he is positive about the study: "Such a global overview has never been made before."
Collaboration with the Department of Animal Breeding (Madrid, Spain)
Professor Sonia Consuegra has been awarded a four-month OECD Research Fellowship to carry research at Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), Department of Animal Breeding (Madrid, Spain)
Newton-UK Brazil exchange workshop
Professor Sonia Consuegra has been invited by the British Academy to participate in a Newton UK-Brazil International workshop at Brasilia (Brazil) on 9-12 March 2020
New publication on salmon microbiome
Dr. Tamsyn UrenWebster had the following paper accepted for publication in Molecular Ecology: Environmental plasticity and colonisation history in the Atlantic salmon microbiome: a translocation experiment.
Welfare Index for farmed lumpfish
KESS-II PhD student Carolina Gutierrez -Rabadan was invited to give a talk at a Fish Welfare workshop at the University of Bergen (Norway) on “Development and validation of an Operational Welfare Index for farmed lumpfish” 28th January 2020
European Stakeholder Workshop on Fish-friendly Hydropower
Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz will be presenting The AMBER Barrier Atlas: an overview of stream fragmentation in Europe on the 28th of January at The European Stakeholder Workshop on Fish-friendly Hydropower in Brussels.
This event will serve as a platform for consultation and exchange between FIThydro scientists, policy-makers and technical experts working on the assessment of impacts from hydropower plants and the planning of mitigation measures. _________________________________________
WHERE: Brussels WHEN: 28-29 January 2020 More info and program here Picture credits: Sara Barrento __________________________________________ #rivers #conservation #management #atlas #barriers #workshop
Where are they? - Our recent PhD graduates
We are very proud of our recent PhD graduates - you will be missed.
We wish you all the best of luck and success in your research careers.
Dr Matteo Rolla will begin a postdoc at University of Windsor, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (Canada)
Dr. Waldir Miron-Berbel will start a postdoc at University of Oklahoma (USA)
Dr. Ben Whittaker is doing a postdoc at Guelph University (Canada)
Dr. Teja Muha is working for the company Bia Separations CRO, Slovenia
Dr. Chloe Robinson is doing a postdoc at Guelph University (Canada)
Dr. Marta Rodriguez-Rey is doing a postdoc at University of Alcala de Henares (Spain)
Dr. Becky Pawluk is doing a postdoc at University of Bath (UK)
Managing dams in an adaptive way
Researchers from Swansea University in the UK introduce the AMBER project which looks at the Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers.
The AMBER team have been featured in the October 2019 Water Power magazine highlighting the aims of the project and some case studies.
"As AMBER enters its final year, achieving legacy becomes paramount so that lessons learnt can be incorporated into policy. In this sense, all the data collected during the project, as well as the AMBER tools that have been developed, will be made freely available in 2020. AMBER is also championing the protection of the remaining pristine river habitats in Europe and encouraging a new river culture. While Europe has lost most of its free-flowing rivers, a few relatively unfragmented rivers still exist, most notably in the Balkans. These river sanctuaries need to be vigorously protected. With increasing demands for water use and hydropower, it is important that lessons learned from AMBER are used to avoid past mistakes and manage dams in adaptive, smarter and more environmentally respectful ways."
Jess Minett, PhD student from CSAR, Swansea University aims to answer key questions about the abundance and distribution of brown trout across the islands aswell as their feeding habits and their movement.
Prizes won for best dissertations in fisheries and aquaculture
The 5m Publishing Prizes for Swansea University’s best undergraduate dissertations on aquaculture and fisheries were presented on 26 July as part of the university’s graduation ceremony.
“I am impressed by the quality of the undergraduates’ work and its potential for application to increase sustainability in the aquaculture industry,” said Nigel Balmforth, 5m’s director of publishing, who presented the award certificates and prizes. “It is a pleasure to support these awards, and the continuing cutting-edge work of Swansea University and their Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research”.
How keyhole surgery is improving lumpfish welfare and production techniques
A veterinarian at Swansea’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research has pioneered the use of a non-destructive method to assess the health of lumpfish broodstock.
Utilising his experience with ornamental fish in public aquaria, CSAR’s consultant veterinarian, Dr Richard Lloyd, has adapted the use of laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) to obtain kidney and gonad biopsies from all their male lumpfish over the last two broodstock seasons. This has allowed advanced health assessment, direct visualisation of reproductive status and PCR screening for selected pathogens to pre-assess their suitability as broodstock.
This new study identifies two genes in Nile tilapia related to the expression of stress in crowded environments: sstl and fosab. This is good news for breeders as it might be possible to selectively breed fish that perform better under crowded conditions.
Aquaculture has been aiming towards intensification – grow more with less. In the case of fish farming, this involves more fish in less space, with less water, and less feed. This requires careful selection of species and individuals that will perform well in crowded environments. Fish domestication changes social behaviour and aggression is one of the key behaviours in crowded spaces. In the case of Nile tilapia high stocking density causes a shift from antagonistic (aggressive) to shoaling behaviour.
The hypothesis was that rearing density would influence the frequency of aggression – individuals with different aggression levels and stress‐coping styles would differ in the expression of key genes involved in the stress response. We concluded that the crowding inhibits aggressive behaviour in Nile tilapia and results in changes in the expression of stress-related genes that accompany the shift from social hierarchies maintained by agonistic interactions at low density, to shoaling at high density.
D. Rodriguez-Barreto, O. Rey, T. Uren Webster, G. Castaldo, S. Consuegra, C. Garcia de Leaniz, Transcriptomic response to aquaculture intensification in Nile tilapia, (2019). doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.8198408.v1.
News release - Salmon expert demands controls on catch‑and‑release angling
Scientist Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, a professor in aquatic biology and Director of CSAR, warned that fishing for salmon – even on a catch-and-release basis – is contributing to its decline.
He said this generation’s grandchildren may grow up unaware that salmon was once wild rather than farmed.
He said: “It’s a scandal, an absolute scandal. To think that something that has been part of our culture for perhaps 100,000 or 200,000 years can disappear in a matter of a few decades is just tragic. It is absolutely tragic.
“We meet with resistance from governments who just refuse to see it. They delude themselves with catch quotas of five, 20, 30 fish.
“Can you imagine a conservation programme for, say, the tiger, cheetah, or black rhino where hunters are allowed to catch five or 10 individuals? Or even to engage in catch-and-release? How can we contemplate a scheme where we catch fish simply for fun and put them back in the river in the hope they are going to survive? Of course they are damaged by it.
“Catch-and-release is just like shooting black rhinos with darts, and only for fun. Would you do it?
“The problem is that, regardless of the direct and indirect mortality it may cause, it masks the real problem and distracts people from the real issue, which is that wild populations are going extinct across the range, particularly at the southern edge.
“Catch-and-release is perhaps a cynical way of saying it’s business as usual, and it allows anglers to keep at it – since fish are ‘released’ they can be caught again.
NEW PUBLICATION - Neophobia & stress-coping styles in tilapia
Farmed fish are typically reared at densities much higher than those observed in the wild, but to what extent crowding results in abnormal behaviours that can impact welfare and stress coping styles is subject to debate. Neophobia (i.e. fear of the ‘new’) is thought to be adaptive under natural conditions by limiting risks, but it is potentially maladapted in captivity, where there are no predators or novel foods. We reared juvenile Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) for six weeks at either high (50 g l-1) or low density (14 g l-1), assessed the extent of skin and eye darkening (two proxies of chronic stress), and exposed them to a novel object in an open test arena, with and without cover, to assess the effects of density on neophobia and stress coping styles. Fish reared at high density were darker, more neophobic, less aggressive, less mobile and less likely to take risks than those reared at low density, and these effects were exacerbated when no cover was available. Thus, the reactive coping style shown by fish at high density was very different from the proactive coping style shown by fish at low density. Our findings provide novel insights into the plasticity of fish behaviour and the effects of aquaculture intensification on one of the world’s oldest farmed and most invasive fish, and highlight the importance of considering context. Crowding could have a positive effect on the welfare of tilapia by reducing aggressive behaviour, but it can also make fish chronically stressed and more fearful, which could make them less invasive.
NEW PUBLICATION - Genetic differentiation of lumpfish
Demand for lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) has increased exponentially over the last decade, both for their roe, which is used as a caviar substitute, and increasingly also as cleaner fish to control sea lice in salmon farming. The species is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN and there are growing concerns that over-exploitation of wild stocks and translocation of hatchery-reared lumpfish may compromise the genetic diversity of native populations. We carried out a comparative analysis of genetic and phenotypic variation across the species’ range to estimate the level of genetic and phenotypic differentiation, and determined patterns of gene flow at spatial scales relevant to management.
We found five genetically distinct groups located in the West Atlantic (USA and Canada), Mid Atlantic (Iceland), East Atlantic (Faroe Islands, Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Denmark), English Channel (England) and Baltic Sea (Sweden). Significant phenotypic differences were also found, with Baltic lumpfish growing more slowly, attaining a higher condition factor and maturing at a smaller size than North Atlantic lumpfish. Estimates of effective population size were consistently low across the North East Atlantic (Iceland, Faroe Islands and Norway), the area where most wild lumpfish are fished for their roe, and also for the aquaculture industry. Our study suggests that some lumpfish populations are very small and have low genetic diversity, which makes them particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation and genetic introgression. To protect them we advocate curtailing fishing effort, closing the breeding cycle of the species in captivity to reduce dependence on wild stocks, restricting the translocation of genetically distinct populations, and limiting the risk of farm escapes.
Whittaker BA, Consuegra S, Garcia de Leaniz C.2018. Genetic and phenotypic differentiation of lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) across the North Atlantic: implications for conservation and aquaculture. PeerJ6:e5974https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5974