Salmon aquaculture has become the fastest-growing food production system globally accounting for 70% of commercially available salmon, and large scale salmon farming is widespread across the North Atlantic. Researchers at the University of Stirling have undertaken studies monitoring the movement of cleaner fish within a commercial salmon site at Loch Leven, Scotland. The use of cleaner fish within salmon aquaculture has been adopted as a sustainable and biological control of the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis.

RS Aqua’s partner Innovasea (formerly Vemco) supplied its innovative underwater acoustic tracking equipment for the fine-scale, sub-metre resolution, 3D positioning studies of cleaner fish within the salmon pens. An array of eight underwater hydrophones were situated in a square around two adjacent salmon pens, enabling a behavioural study over a period of months. Acoustic tags were surgically implanted inside the cleaner fish, transmitting an acoustic ‘ping’ every few seconds. These pings were recorded by the individual hydrophones and their positions calculated through triangulation.

This was the first use of a high-resolution acoustic telemetry system to study cleaner fish behaviour within aquaculture and it proved to be an effective way to monitor cleaner fish activity within salmon pens. Despite the challenging and noisy conditions (e.g. high salmon densities, tidal flows, and anthropogenic ship noise) the equipment performed exceptionally well and similar methods will be used in the future.

Articles mentioned:

Brooker, A. J., Davie, A., Leclercq, E., Zerafa, B., & Migaud, H. (2020). Pre-deployment acclimatisation of farmed ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) to sea-cage conditions promotes behaviour analogous to wild conspecifics when used as cleaner fish in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) farms. Aquaculture520, 734771.

Leclercq, E., Zerafa, B., Brooker, A. J., Davie, A., & Migaud, H. (2018). Application of passive-acoustic telemetry to explore the behaviour of ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) in commercial Scottish salmon sea-pens. Aquaculture495, 1-12.

For more information on the acoustic tracking equipment we  supply, click here or contact us on info@rsaqua.co.uk

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