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26 September 2016

Conference highlights disease, animal health and welfare remain aquaculture’s ‘most limiting factor’

Health and disease management dominated proceedings at the recent Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) annual GOAL conference on 20th September in China.

Attendees of the GOAL conference reported that health and disease management is the most important challenge limiting aquaculture’s growth and, ultimately, its role in feeding a growing global population.

Fish Vet Group's Global Managing Director, Hamish Rodger, spoke about sea lice the 'most serious threat' facing Atlantic salmon farmers in the Northern Hemisphere

A poll of the audience attending the event in Guangzhou, China, found that 53 per cent agreed with that statement, ranking diseases above feed, environmental and social responsibility, investment, education and other issues – just as it has every year since audience polling commenced.

Expert speakers who presented during Day 1 of the conference – themed “healthy fish,” with “healthy people” and “healthy planet” themes to follow on Days 2 and 3, respectively – delivered pointed information about some of aquaculture’s most challenging health issues, such as Early Mortality Syndrome (shrimp), streptococcus (tilapia) and sea lice (salmon).

Sea lice are naturally occurring parasites that have become an increasing concern for salmon aquaculture, costing global salmon farming more than $500 million per year

Hamish Rodger, Global Managing Director of Fish Vet Group (part of Benchmark Holdings) spoke in detail about sea lice – the “most serious threat” facing Atlantic salmon farmers in the Northern Hemisphere including the techniques the industry has employed to defend its fish from this naturally occurring parasite.

Chemotherapy (bath treatments), site fallowing and other codes of good practice, genetic selection, mesh nets surrounding existing open-ocean net pens and the use of cleaner fish have all demonstrated degrees of success.

Biosecurity may be good, but often what happens between or outside of farms is what contributes to disease.

Hamish Rodger

Global Managing Director, Fish Vet Group

Rodger’s added that each remedy has its challenges because lice management is not just about health management. It has public, media, political and retail expectations and communication ramifications as well.

Benchmark is increasing its knowledge and expertise of lumpfish as part of a long-term sea lice control plan

Rodger highlighted cleaner fish, a natural solution in which Benchmark is investing time and resource.

These “partner” species feed on the lice that affix themselves to salmon’s skin. They have tremendous potential and major salmon farming companies are investing millions in their deployment. Some are even farming wrasse and lumpfish, but cleaner fish bring about their own challenges, such as sustainability, feed and mortality rates in culturing species that are relatively new to producers.

With lumpfish – which are amazing animals – the survival rate is low. They only last six to seven months in a pen, but [salmon] farms operate for 18 months. The farming of this species requires a lot of investment, and there is a lot still to learn.

Hamish Rodger,

Global Managing Director, Fish Vet Group