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HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning

Improve Atlantic salmon robustness in freshwater phase through training and feeding to a successfully timed sea transfer

Alternative title: Forbedre robusthet av laks i ferskvannsfasen gjennom trening og fôring for å sikre optimalt tidspunkt for overføring til sjø

Awarded: NOK 9.1 mill.

Project Number:

320566

Project Period:

2021 - 2024

Location:

Smoltification is a critical process in the life of Atlantic salmon, triggering a series of morphological, physiological and behavioral changes that allow the fish to adapt to a life in the sea. The current trend of producing large smolts in farms has resulted in somewhat weaker, low performing salmon, with compromised smoltification process. This problem is exacerbated by a mismatch between smoltification and sea transfer, because the commonly used smoltification markers are insufficient to adequately predict the optimal time for seawater transfer. This can result in high mortality rates in salmon farms after seawater transfer and represents a major concern for farmers and consumers, since it compromises fish welfare and impairs the productivity of Norwegian salmon industry. The project TIME4SUCCESS will address these challenges by combining two approaches: first, by identifying new smoltification markers to allow farmers to determine the best timing for the sea transfer; secondly, by improving the salmon robustness and, thus, adaptation capacity to the seawater. To produce more robust salmon, we will use interval swimming exercise combined with a suitable feeding strategy to ensure an optimal nutritional status of the fish. This strategy aims to enhance the energy allocation towards muscle growth, reduce stress and possible early maturation, and improve the fish cardiac health and resilience. The project team has been fully recruited and started to prepare the first trial, which aims to identify and validate smoltification markers. To do this an in-depth literature revision in the topic as also been initiated. The novel insights gained in TIME4SUCCESS will contribute to a sustainable growth of the Norwegian Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry, while strengthening the sustainable development goals by contributing to food security and reducing impacts on the marine environment.

The high mortality rates observed in Atlantic salmon farms after seawater transfer are a major concern for farmers and consumers, compromising the fish welfare and impairing the production of the Norwegian salmon farms. Major reasons for the high mortality are that fish produced in freshwater are not sufficiently robust at the time for seawater transfer. Currently, fish farms produce large smolts to reduce the time in open sea cages that comes at the expense of their robustness, resulting in production of weak and low performing salmon, with a high risk of diseases and also early onset of maturation. This problem is exacerbated by commonly used but insufficient smoltification markers, particularly for larger smolts. TIME4SUCCESS aims to resolve these challenges through a combined approach: 1. improve our understanding of the processes underlying smoltification and seawater preadaptation and identify a new toolbox with smoltification markers that will allow farmers to determine the best timing for the sea transfer; 2. enhance robustness and adaptation potential through synergistic benefits of training and feeding acquired during the freshwater phase. Training combined with a suitable feeding strategy ensures optimal nutritional status of the fish, enhances the energy allocation towards muscle growth, reduces early maturation and stress, and improves cardiac health and resilience. Producing more robust smolts in the freshwater phase while optimizing the timing for seawater transfer, will allow the fish to cope better with the transition and life in their new environment, make them more resistant to diseases and stress, and, hence, increase the output and sustainability of the production. The novel insights gained in TIME4SUCCESS will contribute to a sustainable growth of the Norwegian Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry, while strengthening the sustainable development goals by contributing to food security and reducing impacts on the marine environment.

Activity:

HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning