What are the best practices for the production of large salmon smolt? And how do large smolt perform in the sea? Researchers now intend to survey industry practices and lessons learned, combine this with research and return with recommendations that will benefit the industry.

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Reidun Lilleholt Kraugerud  

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Would you like to take part?

Nofima recently sent out questionnaires to smolt suppliers to get an overview of current practices and lessons learned from the production of large smolt. Similar questionnaires are being sent to grow out producers concerning performance after sea transfer. One of the challenges is to link information about hatchery-phase production protocols to post-release performance data.

The project will collect and analyse relevant data about the commercial production of Atlantic salmon from producers in Norway, Chile, Canada, Scotland and the Faroe Islands. Input from producers will be anonymised.

“If you would like to take part but haven’t been contacted, please get in touch with me,” urges Trine Ytrestøyl, Senior Scientist, Nofima.

During spring, the input from fish producers will be followed up by interviews and discussion meetings with the industry.

By surveying current practice and collecting experiential data, we aim to recommend the best practices for production of large salmon smolt in various scenarios.

This will all be illuminated in a project under the auspices of the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF): ‘Knowledge survey: production of large salmon smolt’, led by Nofima, in collaboration with NORCE, BDO, Åkerblå, Fiskaaling and Avrik.

The project fits well with CtrlAQUA’s ongoing research, as the centre has already conducted research into various industry-relevant smolt-production protocols. CtrlAQUA is a centre for research-driven innovation within closed-containment farming systems. Several aquaculture partners at CtrlAQUA are also taking part in the FHF project by sharing data and lessons learned.

Why is this necessary?

Today’s salmon production is constantly changing to comply with new requirements and meet expectations for fish health, growth and profitability, with several factors affecting the producer’s choice of production regimen. The large-scale expansion of onshore facilities makes it possible to keep salmon in closed-containment systems, thereby producing bigger smolt. The intention is to reduce the sea-phase production time, thus reducing the prevalence of salmon lice and disease.

At present, different producers use multiple protocols to produce large hatchery fish, including different light-regimes, temperature, salt additives, feed and genetics. In addition, smolt are released into the sea at different times of the year, which means that the smolt encounter varying environmental conditions after release.

“Up to now, fish farmers have reported that the sea-based performance of large salmon smolt varies. But the scale of the problems and the factors responsible for the poor performance have not been identified. If production of large smolts for sea transfer is to be an economically viable strategy, it is important to achieve good and predictable growth after sea transfer. In this respect, producers will mutually benefit from being transparent,” says Sven Martin Jørgensen, Project Manager, FHF.

Assessing how smolts perform after being released to the sea, and how size and production regimen affect the performance, will be a crucial aspect of a survey process that ultimately will generate recommendations for best practices for production of large salmon smolt.

The project began in autumn 2021 and will be completed in autumn 2022. The results will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders throughout the value chain via e-learning courses, webinars and publications.

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