Over the last decade, the Chilean Salmon Farming Industry has been subject to an increase of the ectoparasyte Caligusrogercresseyi or sea louse. This has generated substantial losses related to incremented fish mortality, given a rise in their susceptibility to secondary infections, and the high costs associated to treatments and controlling this parasite, among others. Under this scenario, Fundación Chile sided with Marine Harvest, and are currently working on a project that uses the Patagonian Blenny/Sea Bass (Eleginops maclovinus) a Chilean native fish, as biocontrol for the Caligus in salmon farms.
Studies in Chile have demonstrated at least a 40% efficiency of this fish as biocontrol for sea lice in salmons. At first, the project aimed to confirm this hypothesis. Subsequently, a series of bioassays have been carried out to determine the appropriate number of these fishes per salmon, to obtain positive results. Additional studies have been made on the interaction of the Patagonian Blenny/Sea Bass with different sizes of salmons as well as the effect of using different culture densities on biocontrol levels.
The Patagonian Blenny/Sea Bass is a Chilean native fish, and studies in Chile have proven at least 40% efficiency of this fish as biocontrol for sea lice in salmons.
This initiative aims to reduce the use of antiparasitics to control the sea louse. In addition, it is expected to perform tests in farms at a commercial scale, whose results would represent a real support for the national salmon farming industry. This project has involved an investment of approximately $ 240 million in both public and private contributions.
Juan Carlos Sanchez, Fundación Chile’s Experimental Station Quillaipe’s Head of Development, explained that “there is abundant talk in the industry about the resistance generated by chemicals currently used to control Caligidosis. The goal in using cleaning fishes, is to generate an alternative to the use of these products, by resorting to an external biological control with a permanent effect. ”
In parallel, Fundación Chile and Marine Harvest Chile are working to optimize the biocontrol fish production process. Thus, under the project “Production of Biocontrol Fish in Raft Cages”, funded by Copec UC Foundation, cost efficient farming strategies will be developed, allowing a greater potential for biocontrol of the Patagonian Blenny/Sea Bass as a basis for a successful commercial rise. “The sustainability of a business based on biological control depends not only on the effectiveness of the treatment, but also on the feasibility of providing the salmon industry with biocontrol specimens of the highest quality in a timely manner, in the required amounts, and at a competitive price” added Sanchez.