SCOTTISH environment and rural affairs minister Aileen McLeod visited Marine Harvest’s wrasse hatchery this week.
The wrasse are being used in salmon farming to help combat the challenge of sea lice.
The project, which is part of a collaboration between Marine Harvest Scotland, Scottish Sea Farms and the University of Stirling, aims to develop this sustainable means of reducing sea lice levels.
Wrasse, also known as cleaner fish, are natural predators of sea lice and remove the parasite from salmon when they are grown together.
The minister (pictured with hatchery manager Paul Featherstone and Marine Harvest veterinary manager Dave Cokerill) met the staff of Marine Harvest, who run the farm as part of the collaborative project.
Wrasse are proving successful in reducing sea lice levels at an increasing number of salmon farms across Scotland.
The Macrihanish wrasse freshwater hatchery is one of a handful in place in Scotland. It is expected to produce up to one million wrasse for use in salmon farms across the country for Marine Harvest and Scottish Sea Farms.
McLeod said: ‘I was delighted to visit Machrihanish to see the collaborative effort and investment being made in cleaner fish by Scotland’s farmed salmon industry and research community.
‘This work will help manage sea lice and enhance the sector’s environmental sustainability.’
Steve Bracken of Marine Harvest said: ‘We were delighted the minister could visit us here and see for herself the desire to find ways of managing the sea lice challenge.
‘It is just one of the ways in which we are developing the salmon farming industry in a sustainable way.’
Jim Gallagher, managing director of Scottish Sea Farms, said: ‘The use of wrasse has been an area we have been heavily involved with for some years now, investing substantial amounts in research and investment projects.
‘Working closely with our industry partners and academia means that research is now receiving the support it needs to develop real results and change for the future of salmon farming.
‘We are pleased to be involved with the joint project at Machrihanish and working with a new project through SAIC at Stirling University.
‘We believe that the increased use of cleaner fish for lice control can greatly contribute to the sustainability ambitions of the salmon industry.’