Scientists at Nofima have started to breed lumpsucker (lumpfish) families which have a special liking for consuming salmon lice. Eating salmon lice seems to be a genetic trait.
\"Louse eating is the sole reason that lumpsuckers are of interest to us, but not all lumpsuckers are equally keen on this diet. Currently, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the proportion of them that will eat lice. Some estimate 30-40 per cent, others believe that well over 50 per cent have this trait,\" says Atle Mortensen, who is heading up Nofima’s research on lumpsuckers.
Last year, Akvaplan-niva was allowed access to nine different lumpsucker families that Nofima had produced at its Centre for Marine Aquaculture in Kraknes in Tromsø. These were set out in salmon cages at Gildeskål Research Station (GIFAS) plant at Helgeland.
\"Akvaplan-niva found that, of these nine families, there was one that stood out very strongly when it came to eating lice, while other families did not eat lice at all. They preferred the pellet feed that the salmon got,\" explains Mortensen.
Because of this, Nofima took siblings from the keenest lice eating family and used them as brood stock for some new lumpsucker families. The scientists have also produced some families based on families that did not eat lice.
All in all, Nofima now has 63 families that will be used to check out Akvaplan-niva’s findings on a larger scale. As soon as the lumpsuckers are big enough they will be put out in salmon cages in order to test their lice eating abilities under conditions that are as close to authentic as possible.
\"We are the first to have produced our own lumpsucker families from brood stock. Nofima had breeding in mind from day one, and we now have full control of the pedigree of this fish,\" says the scientist.
The project has been going on for almost three years.
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