Irish Research Council Employment Based Programme Awardee: Fish Farming & Food Security

Posted: 19 November, 2014

In response to global concerns regarding food security a variety of national and international agencies and policies are promoting growth in aquaculture production, often referred to as fish farming. Aquaculture presents Europe with an opportunity to reduce dependence on imported seafood and provides Ireland with an opportunity to enhance our seafood exports both within the EU and to developing markets worldwide. The Irish salmon aquaculture industry is estimated to be worth approximately €72m a year to the economy, with more than 2,000 people employed primarily in coastal communities.

As with most intensive farm systems, it is important to ensure the health status and welfare of the animals is maintained. Healthy fish will grow at appropriate rates and have immune systems capable of dealing with pathogens. On occasion, as in any farm setting, diseases will occur that threaten the welfare of the fish and, ultimately, the economic viability of farms.

Ameobic gill disease (AGD) is caused by a free living amoeba (unicellular organism) named Neoparamoeba perurans and is recognised as a leading cause of losses in the global salmon farming sector. Neoparamoeba perurans colonises and irritates the gills of salmon; this causes the over production of mucus and may lead to respiratory impairment. Research at GMIT is focusing on the use of proteomics to study the immune response of salmon to AGD. Proteomics is the study of the protein content of a cell or organism at a given moment of time. The final aim of this research project is to develop technologies which could be applied by the industry for early detection of the disease and alternative treatments.

* Mar Marcos-López, a PhD student in the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (MFRC-GMIT) and a veterinarian with Vet Aqua International, is studying the salmon immune response in fish affected by AGD.

* The research is being funded by the Irish Research Council Employment Based Programme, which funds research between higher education and industry partners, in this case GMIT and Vet-Aqua International. GMIT is also collaborating with the Marine Institute. Together, Mar Marcos López, Jamie Downes (funded by the Marine Institute and also undertaking a PhD at GMIT) Vet Aqua International, the Marine Institute and GMIT represent the national research activity aimed at tackling this disease.

Irish Independent, 13th November 2014: link here.

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