Project will test parasite control in farmed fish

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James McLeod
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Lumpfish and cunners to be used to clean up sea lice on salmon

Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley and Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association executive director Cyr Couturier speak to reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning in St. John’s. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley announced Tuesday the government will spend $85,000 to research whether it can get little fish to eat parasites off other fish.

Sea lice, a persistent problem in the salmon aquaculture industry worldwide, could be kept under control by “cleaner fish” such as cunner fish and lumpfish.

“Sea lice is a concern for stakeholders in the salmon aquaculture industry worldwide. It’s important to note that it is naturally present in waters throughout the world and can have a very detrimental impact on farmed salmon,” Dalley said. “This industry is evolving and the provincial government will continue to work collaboratively with the industry to advance economic success for the province, for the communities, and certainly for the people working in this valuable industry.”

Because of the province’s cold waters, sea lice can only thrive for a short window in the warmest parts of the year, and they’re less of an issue than in salmon aquaculture in other parts of the world.

Dr. Daryl Whelan, director of Aquatic Animal Health with the provincial government, said that the parasites are becoming more of a concern, though.

“In Newfoundland, the colder water temperatures have, historically, proven very beneficial to us,” he said. “We do see a warming trend in certain years, so those years are a concern for us. So in future, these kinds of components that we’re discussing are for those (years).”

Whelan said there’s reason to believe sea lice are connected with infectious salmon anemia (ISA), a disease which has infected fish and caused thousands of salmon to be destroyed in the province.

“I think as veterinarians and as the fish health community looks at this, we’re always concerned about what things would transmit or be a vector for transfer,” he said. “Sea lice are one of those that are discussed many times.”

Cyr Couturier, executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, was on hand for the announcement, and talked about the benefits of farmed fish.

“Our products are healthy and wholesome and recommended by Health Canada’s food guide,” he said. “They are produced locally and available fresh year-round.”

But Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett, who also turned up at the news conference Tuesday, has been a persistent critic of the province’s open-net aquaculture industry.

Bennett said if the money that was put into combatting sea lice and ISA was instead invested in on-land closed-containment fish farms, none of the problems would exist.

“I can’t believe that you’re going to use cunners to take sea lice off the salmon. It may work, but if you consider all the costs that’s going into mitigating all the ill effects of open-net aquaculture, if you add all that on and focus it towards closed containment … what is the outcome?” he asked.

“Off every wharf, in every community in the province the kids can go catch cunners and put them in the nets to save the salmon from the sea lice.”

Organizations: Aquatic Animal Health, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, Health Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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  • paul
    August 07, 2013 - 16:00

    Bennet might have to eat his words one day...he is very critical (based on misinformation...) of the salmon farming industry in NL. however, its development to this stage involved major efforts from past liberal governments and any future liberal government will do as the current PC government is doing, and support this industry. its a money maker and its not the environmental demon its opponents make it out to be.

  • No thanks
    August 07, 2013 - 09:04

    Healthy, wholesome, full of pesticides, lice, and antibiotics, white fleshed until they're fed shrimp shells to turn them pink, and raised in their own filth. Government is wasting our money on corporate welfare. If it was such a great idea, the multinationals would pay for it themselves. Where's the money for a land based project? How about some investment on studying how wild salmon are affected? Oh, wild salmon can't give political donations you say? Makes sense.