Fish farming company Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) say a £4million investment in technology to combat sea lice is paying dividends.
With £425,000 support from the Scottish Government, through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, the firm bought the first Thermolicer device to be used in Scotland to rid fish of the parasite.
The Norweigian-built system offers an alternative to the use of medicines, by using water temperature changes to tackle the problem.
After carrying out research and training staff in the operation of the technology, SSF say they are co-operating with other aquaculture firms in its use. It has already been used by other salmon farmers including Cooke Aquaculture, Grieg Seafood.
SSF’s head of fish health, Dr Ralph Bickerdike, said: “This has been a real breakthrough in the fight against sea lice – having access to a new tool, which works in a completely different way to our other control measures, is a major achievement for the Scottish industry.
“It complements the other innovative solutions we are employing, such as biological control.”
The project was welcomed by Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for the rural economy and connectivity.
Mr Ewing said: “Aquaculture is one of our real economic success stories and I am committed to supporting its continued growth to 2020 and beyond within a thriving rural economy.
“I want the sector to be ambitious but this further growth must continue to be sustainable and protect the pristine environment on which the sector depends.
“The Scottish Government has invested significantly to research and develop innovative, long-term, sustainable options for the control and management of sea lice on Scottish fish farms, both by establishing the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and ensuring that EMFF funding is being used effectively to tackle this issue.
“I am pleased to see the impact our support is having – innovation in this field is exactly what we want to encourage.”
SSF worked with the SAIC to introduce the technology.
The centre’s chief executive, Heather Jones, said: “SAIC are delighted to see this degree of innovation and use of new technologies in the Scottish industry.
“Our support leading the EMFF bid – generously awarded by the Scottish Government – has helped Scottish Sea Farms to bring the Thermolicer to Scotland.
“Its use here demonstrates an unprecedented level of collaboration across the industry. By continuously improving the use of this technology, making both the device and the know-how available to all companies in Scotland, the whole industry in Scotland can benefit.”