Health Research Group

The Health Research Group addresses issues of finfish and shellfish health and welfare with a focus on the prevention and control of infectious diseases, monitoring for and ensuring optimal welfare of farmed stocks and optimising ethical production. 

Fish health has been at the core of the Institute of Aquaculture’s research, knowledge exchange and training portfolio since its inception as the Unit of Aquatic Pathobiology in 1972. We maintain a focus on finfish and shellfish health and welfare, working primarily on i) prevention and control of infectious diseases; ii) monitoring for and ensuring optimal farmed stock welfare; and iii) optimising sustainable ethical production. Our work principally concerns established and emerging aquaculture species, but we also work with wild capture fisheries (e.g. research into post-catch survivability of discarded Norway lobsters), non-food aquatic species and zoonotic (human-transmissible) diseases associated with aquatic organisms.

Man working at tanks in aquaculture facility

Health group staff lead/participate in collaborative partnerships and networks worldwide, with partners including academics, regulators, industry, value chain, NGOs and consumer stakeholders. Our group's research expertise encompasses fish welfare, fish behaviour, emerging infectious disease, chemo- and immuno-therapy, management and control of viral/bacterial/parasitic diseases, bacterial and parasite drug resistance, disease diagnostics, fish/shellfish physiology, ecotoxicology, veterinary pathology, epidemiology and fish immunology/vaccinology.

With greater knowledge of fish behaviour and with the expansion of intensive aquaculture, we have increasingly sought to improve animal welfare and ethical production. Our fundamental research to improve understanding of fish adaptability, choice and cognition has led directly to changes in management practices, accreditation and guidance, providing contributions to RSPCA Assured industry standards, Global Aquaculture Alliance certification for Best Aquaculture Practices and the Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish aquaculture.

With long-established interests in microbial disease, our group has addressed antimicrobial resistance internationally (e.g. India, Vietnam). In the UK, we are improving disease resistance to major pathogens in salmonids (e.g. F. psychrophilum), through development of novel vaccines and improved vaccination strategies for a range of species. We also have extensive experience in modelling of the epidemiology of infectious disease, this being supported, in terms of managing disease, by our work on pathology, improved pathogen detection (e.g. through new point-of-care rapid detection methods), control and biosecurity.

Parasites account for losses of up to $9.58 billion in aquaculture and our group is in the vanguard of developing tools for improving control of parasites in finfish aquaculture, particularly for sea lice, ectoparasitic copepods affecting wild and farmed finfish, and for amoebic gill disease (AGD), which both have major impacts on farmed fish health and welfare. Areas of research include drug resistance, vaccine development, selective breeding and development of alternative methods for control such as use of acoustic devices.

Research team

Professor James Bron

Professor Simon MacKenzie

Dr Darren Green

Dr Armin Sturm

Professor Margaret Crumlish

Dr Amaya Albalat

Dr Andrew Desbois

Dr Sean Monaghan

Dr Benjamin Clokie


Dr Chris Payne

Dr Maureen Ellis

Dr Timothy Wiese

Dr Ahmed Ahmed


PhD Students

Rosa Allshire

Jibril Jibril

Batuhan Coskun

Ibrahim Rashid

Ahmed Elkesh

Heri Kurniawan

Aloysius Adibe

Gayatri Kacch

Irene Molto