MGSA Science & Research Working Group - Aquaculture Science & Research Strategy

MGSA S&RWG was tasked to produce a comprehensive research strategy prioritised on respective contribution to informing the sustainable growth of the Scottish aquaculture industry and potential impacts of the 2020 sustainable production targets as detailed

03 Table Health & Welfare

General Topic
Priority Ranking (1-10)


Relevance to 2020 target

Potential deficiencies in Infrastructure/Resource Requirements

1) Between farm transmission mechanisms

Investigations of the modes of transport between farm sites through environmental transmission and production activities.

Enable the establishment of appropriate aquaculture production zones such as farm management areas or catchments to aid disease management.


2) Within site farm management practices

Explore differential approaches to managing disease on farms between pens/units to minimise within farm pathogen transmission. Develop alternate methods of remote surveillance ( e.g. imagery to detect change in behaviour, optical methods for counting lice).

Minimise agent transmission, to limit farm level infection. Allow for the development of greater automation and more effective detection to allow earlier targeted intervention.

Limited involvement of engineers for developing technological solutions. Physical oceanographer input required to identify within farm pathways.


3) Pathogen Genetics

Identify mechanism of virulence and disease emergence ( e.g. ISA HPR0, VHS, OHV, Vibrio) to establish suitable risk assessments for disease introductions in to Scottish Aquaculture systems. Including disease emergence in diversifying fin and shellfish culture.

Categorise mechanisms of resistance to chemical treatments and medicines in order to optimise rotation of treatments.

Establish methods such as refugia, for promoting genetic diversity within parasite/pathogen populations to retain susceptible strains within the population allowing extant treatments to remain effective. Rapid diagnosis.

Inform the development of disease prevention, control, mitigation and eradication procedures to minimise production losses of farmed animals as a result of pathogenic disease.

Suitable assays for strain discrimination.


4) Alternate therapeutants

Develop alternate treatments to enable greater rotation and replacement of out-phased treatments, especially for Saprolegnia in freshwater phase.

Due to planned removal of formalin for use during freshwater phase of salmon and trout, the industry is vulnerable to a Saprolegnia epidemic which would cause contraction of production of fin fish.

Substantial time from concept to market.


5) Diseases in trout

Establish best practises of using triploid fish in order to reduce abnormalities. Identify causes and develop mitigation for emerging disease syndromes such as 'puffy skin' and existing diseases such as Red Mark Syndrome.

Enable the diversification of fin fish production.

Currently small market share (although important for game fishing sector), so more focus currently targeted at salmon diseases.


6) Emerging diseases. Changes in disease due to climate induced sea and freshwater change

Assessment of the potential disease risks of emerging (e.g Oyster Herpes Virus uvar) and predicted issues ( e.g. AGD), and consequences for current known transmissible diseases ( e.g. warmer seas enabling potential introduction of agents; temperature mediated sea lice maturation leading to change in management requirements).

Enable mitigation of losses from alternate sources to current issues.

Prediction of future conditions.


7) Health and welfare of cleaner fish

Address emerging issues arising with the use of cleaner fish as biological controls for sea lice. Require categorisation of potential including behaviour, interactions with stocked salmon, biosecurity and escapes, emerging diseases, management and optimisation of use, selective breeding, husbandry practices, avoidance of feeding on pellets.

Reduce the dependency on chemical treatment, and issues concerning possible resistance. Diversification of fin fish culture (Produce a new sector). Limit need for capture stocking of cleaner fish ecological and biosecurity implications.

Infancy of breeding programmes.

Identifying microorganisms which may pose risk to cohabiting stock. Development of assays for cleaner fish pathogens.


8) Welfare

Identifying practical and measurable welfare outcomes.

High fish welfare is a characteristic of the Scottish industry. Measuring this for will become more important in the future for assurance.

The best fish indicators require to be identified, in terms of telling us about the welfare state of the fish.


9) Genetics and breeding

Test the application of disease resistant animals to establish whether phenotypes are expressed to provide benefits under farm conditions. Ensure that breeding for resistance does not result in undesired attributes such as suboptimal growth or a diminishing product.

Reduce the need for medicines and therapeutants thereby establishing less diseased fish and reducing environment chemical input.

Breeding undertaken by limited number of organisations without wider dissemination of procedures. Lacking suitable test facility. Perception & regulation of GMO's.


10) Immunology and Vaccines

Investigate the consequences of individual animal vaccination to herd/population immunity at the various production unit level.

Allow an assessment of the level of intervention required to limit the susceptibility of disease mediated production losses.



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