Our research addresses the challenge of how to enhance fish health and production whilst balancing sustainable development, animal welfare, biodiversity and environmental impact.
are helping to tackle the damaging impact of sea lice with 'cleaner fish' research
Most farmed fish
in the UK are now vaccinated and the Institute of Aquaculture continues to develop integrated approaches to health
poor communities around the world to farm fish sustainably
Enhancing fish health
Infectious disease provides a major barrier to sustainable aquaculture, and with 598 species used in aquaculture worldwide it is a challenge to keep track of the pathogens. At the Institute of Aquaculture, we maintain a large multi-disciplinary group dedicated to the prevention and control of aquatic infectious diseases addressing the entire aquaculture production spectrum. The overall aim of our research is to improve understanding of major pathogens in aquaculture systems and we do this by integrating expertise across bacteriology, immunology, parasitology, pathology, vaccinology and virology.
Our research investigates environmental factors that promote disease, reservoirs of infection, taxonomic diversity and evolution, modes of disease transmission, routes of infection and infection thresholds. Understanding how pathogens cause disease and interfere with the immune responses of their hosts helps to develop point of care diagnostics, best husbandry measures and preventive vaccines or treatments. The Institute in the late 1980s contributed to the development of the first vaccines for the Atlantic salmon industry, setting the foundations for current cutting edge approaches toward preventative therapy in fish health. The impact of this work has led to significant improvements in fish health and welfare and a much reduced reliance upon antibiotics.
Our activities cover both fundamental and applied research and we work closely with industrial partners spanning a broad range of aquaculture-related activities. Our research has contributed to national and international aquatic animal health and welfare strategies, and much of this is conducted in collaboration with competent authorities in the UK (e.g. MSS and Cefas), Europe (e.g. European Food Safety Authority) and further afield (e.g. OIE).
The first commercial fish vaccines in the UK were developed by scientists at our Institute of Aquaculture.
Our Researchers developed a novel approach to improve the availability of high-quality tilapia seed and more nutritious fish in Bangladesh.
Greener solution to combat sea lice
Sea lice, marine ectoparasites of fish, cause economic losses of over £700 million a year for the global Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry. For decades, medicines and chemicals were used to control and treat sea lice infestations. With input from industry, the Institute undertook research into the use of ‘cleaner fish’ as a pest control alternative.
‘Cleaner fish’ provide a service to other fish by removing and consuming ectoparasites. Found in the wild, they had never been successfully farmed before. In 2011, the Institute started work with salmon production companies and feed manufacturers to initiate a programme to farm ballan wrasse. The success of this research led to the establishment of two commercial wrasse farms in 2014 and an overall reduction in the use of chemicals to combat sea lice. A second cleaner fish species, the lumpfish, has since started to be cultured.
The Institute leads UK research on the culture of cleaner fish and covers a wide range of topics related to the domestication of a new species. In 2018, the Institute and its industry partners welcomed what was believed to be a world-first after successfully completing the lifecycle of farming wrasse in a controlled environment. The breakthrough means there are now proven procedures for breeding, weaning and rearing wrasse, which will both help ensure farmers have a more secure, controllable supply and reduce reliance on wild stocks.
In 2018, the Institute and its industry partners welcomed what was believed to be a world-first after successfully completing the lifecycle of farming wrasse in a controlled environment.