Based on targeted, long-term breeding work, Nofima is breeding lumpfish with good health, steady growth and a big appetite for lice. Photo: Lars Åke Andersen/Nofima

Project Year 2016

Robust, hungry and right-sized

The ideal cleaner-fish must be in good health, be the right size and have a big appetite for salmon lice. Is this possible?

It is, according to scientist Panya Sae-Lim. Based on targeted, long-term breeding work, Nofima is breeding lumpfish with all the desired characteristics.

Happy fish

Lumpfish are common along the Norwegian coast and have a good appetite for one of the banes of Norwegian salmon farming: salmon lice.

Traditionally, fish farms have used wildcaught lumpfish as cleaner-fish. However, salmon pens are very different to the lumpfish’s natural habitat, resulting in a high mortality rate among cleaner-fish.

Nofima’s breeding programme has therefore focused on breeding a fish that will thrive and is also robust against the bacterial disease vibriosis.

“We use families that have steady growth as broodstock. Lumpfish develop cannibalistic tendencies if the individuals are of very different sizes,” explains the scientist.

And since some lumpfish seem to be fonder of eating lice than others, it is clearly best to use the most voracious for breeding.

Benefits the industry

“We select broodfish from a population with natural genetic variations and breed using the individuals with the desired qualities. Breeding a healthy, robust fish that is adapted to the environment it is going to live in and has a particularly voracious appetite for salmon lice ensures fish welfare and benefits the aquaculture industry,” says Panya Sae-Lim.

Fish farmers will be less dependent on wild fish and will have cleaner-fish with better survival rates and less variation in growth and thus size, meaning they will not need to be replaced so frequently.

The current tests involve 2,000 lumpfish from 68 families from the breeding station in Tromsø, and the results will be ready in early 2017.

“The research on lumpfish is continually evolving. We have not yet fully understood the genetic possibilities,” says Panya Sae-Lim.

Basic grant from the Research Council of Norway

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