B.C. Salmon Farmer’s Association announces funding for research

The BC Salmon Farmers Association’s independent Science Advisory Council has approved $170,000 in funding through the Marine Environmental Research Program.

The funding will support three projects which the council views as crucial to the collective understanding and sustainability of the marine ecosystem on B.C.’s coast, according to the media release.

“The BCSFA Science Advisory Council has facilitated a number of important research collaborations that are starting to provide great insight into our local ocean environment, wild salmon and furthering sustainable innovations in aquaculture,” said Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the BCSFA, in a media release. “Salmon aquaculture has always been an industry that values quality science done in an objective and transparent manner.”

Project 1

Researchers at the University of PEI and the Atlantic Veterinary College and University of St. Andrews in Scotland will be looking into spatial and temporal patterns of sea lice infestations on farm-raised salmon on the B.C. coast.

The team at UPEI have integrated data from several monitoring programs across the B.C. coast over a 16-year period into a single data set.

The data was collected from over 300 locations covering 12 regions along the B.C. coast.

Altogether, one million fish were captured and 25 per cent of them were assessed for sea lice.

The data will provide an integrated picture of sea lice infestation patterns on wild salmon populations in B.C.

Project 2

Researchers at the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, as well as Fisheries and Oceans Canada will be trying to isolate the bacteriums, aeronmans salmonicida and piscirikettsia salmonis, from farmed and wild salmon in B.C. to support diagnostic test evaluation and epidemiological studies.

The team will develop specific diagnostic assays to detect the pathogens in samples of fish and later the environment. In this way mitigation strategies can be developed.

This project will advance the understanding of the genomics of pathogens endemic to B.C. that are having an affect on farm raised salmon. The data will inform the development of vaccine and treatment methods as well as enable the identification of previously unrecognized genomic features.

Project 3

Researchers at the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans, and Marine Harvest Canada are investigating the use of perch as sea lice cleaner fish for farmed salmon.

The use of one kind of fish to “clean” another is a proven method of managing sea lice in salmon culture in Norway and Scotland, however this research is the first on fish native to B.C. waters.

Several preliminary trials, conducted at the DFO centre for aquaculture and environmental research, determined that kelp and pile perch will clean sea lice off of experimentally-infested salmon.

Researchers looked at differences in cleaning activity between the two species of perch and in different sizes of the perch and at cleaning preferences in terms of sea lice life history, location of sea lice on salmon and behaviour of cleaning in the lab.

As well as these three new projects, there are three projects that are receiving ongoing funding including a project looking at Pacific salmon migration, looking at the structure and function of the salmon farm “reef” and examining marine reservoirs of infectious agents associated with proliferative gill disorders in farmed salmon.

The Marine Environmental Research Program has now developed collaborations, helping to bridge the knowledge gaps on B.C.’s wild stocks and coastal environment on nine projects providing almost $600,000 in funding.

In December 2014, BCSFA launched the Marine Environmental Research Program and committed $1.5 million over five years to fund research through a competitive process that will provide a better understanding of the marine environment and B.C’s wild marine species, particularly wild salmon stocks.

The research-funding program is open to all research organizations and managed by a third-party Science Advisory Council compromised of members from UBC, VIU, the B.C. ministry of agriculture, the DFO, the Pacific Salmon Foundation as well as industry experts.