Non-technical summaries of our current project licences

Nutritional and environmental interventions to improve aquaculture 

The principal aim of this programme of work will be to advance our understanding of the physiological, biochemical, molecular and immune responses of fish and how changes in environment (e.g. temperature, oxygenation etc.) and diet (e.g. specifications, ration, raw material choice etc.) influence these responses when applied throughout a fish’s lifecycle.

This work is driven by the adaptive needs of the aquaculture industry and associated stakeholders and their need to define responses to changes in nutrient supply and/or raw material use with various species.

Furthermore there is a need to understand at a deeper level the impact of environmental interactions in aquaculture systems and their influence upon nutritional requirements. Aquaculture production systems may be entirely closed or semi-closed from the external environment or open-systems that directly interact with the external environment.

This work aims to understand such interactions at the level of farmed population and the abiotic impacts from the environment that for example may represent the impact of differential dissolved gases in closed recirculating systems or thermal variation in open/cage production systems upon the nutritional requirements of the farmed population. The nature of this work responds to emergent needs as commercial aquaculture explores a range of primary materials, for example black soldier fly meals, that may contribute to the sustainability across global aquaculture activities.

Sea lice and gill disease in marine aquaculture 

Disease and parasites affect the welfare of farmed fish and the ability of aquaculture to contribute to the global food supply. Treatments are required to reduce the harm, but they must be shown to be safe and effective first by testing on infected fish. We will develop new methods to prevent and treat disease and to monitor the effectiveness of existing treatments, including sustainable alternatives to pesticides.

Measuring brain activity of fish during humane slaughter

The project addresses the challenge of ensuring farmed fish are effectively stunned prior to slaughter. If slaughter is to be humane, the fish should be rendered unconscious (insensible) immediately or within less than one second and remain unconscious until they are dead.  At present the efficacy of stunning systems in fish has largely been determined by observation of behaviour. Behavioural observations are subjective and prone to errors while existing methods for monitoring brain activity (Electroencephalography (EEG)) in fish are far from ideal, requiring surgical implantation of electrodes into the fish brain.  

The ability to monitor brain activity in animals around the time of slaughter is essential to ensure that the stunning is effective, and that the animals do not regain consciousness prior to death. Information on optimal stunning levels could potentially reduce electrical requirements which benefits the safety of human operators of stunning equipment. The use of excessive electrical parameters, which would render fish unconscious immediately, can damage the fish carcass internally which is only visible during filleting. Damaged fish are less profitable. Therefore, this project will benefit the welfare of farmed fish, companies developing and selling stunning and slaughter equipment, farmers using the equipment and all those interested in the ethical production of farmed fish. 

The objectives of this project are to apply and refine a non-surgical method of attaching electrodes to fish to monitor brain activity and use this technology around the time of electrical in-water stunning to monitor loss of consciousness and confirm optimal stunning parameters for non-salmonid fish. We will then adapt the laboratory equipment for use under commercial conditions.