An Anglesey business is helping to fight a major threat to the salmon industry.
Salmon farms across the globe are struggling with high levels of fish mortality due to infestations of sea lice.
The lice attach to the salmon to feed, resulting in the death of the salmon or making it unsuitable for consumption.
The only hope of saving the salmon, and to halt the increased consumer pricing, is to control the spread of lice; without the use of pesticides.
Introducing Ocean Matters Ltd, a 6,000 metered facility which offers sustainable sea-lice management solutions to the salmon industry.
The facility has over 100 tanks which house thousands of Cyclopterus Lumpus or the lumpfish as they are most commonly called.
The lumpfish is a small marine fish found in the cold waters of the Artic, North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans; it is often referred to as a ‘cleaner’ fish, finding most of its food in the form of parasites that live on or near the bottom of the sea or on other fish such as salmon.
“The threat of sea lice is real and the consequences are proving to be devastating for the commercial salmon farming industry and surrounding environments,” said Werner Forster, founder and managing director of Ocean Matters.
“Salmon farms across the globe are being affected, Norway spends a billion pounds a year addressing the problem.
“Salmon with sea lice are simply miserable - they move slower, eat less, and are at risk of premature death.
“More and more commercial salmon farms are being challenged with infestations.
“These infestations affect the health and quality of the farmed salmon as well as wild populations that live or migrate through the farming areas,” he added.
Ocean Matters provides ‘fish-friendly’ de-lousing programs, with the lumpfish gently eating the sea lice off salmon.
The lumpfish will devour over 100 sea lice in the course of a meal.
Fertilised lumpfish eggs are delivered into Anglesey from Norway, the eggs are then put into quarantine, then incubation, followed by the weaning area and then in to the nursery.
The whole process takes around eight and a half months.
Weighing, on average, around 25 grams, the lump fish leaves Anglesey by truck and then on to a ferry to salmon farms based in Scotland, The Highlands and Ireland.
“We are firm believers in cleaner fish being part of a long term health management solution,” said Werner.
“Today it is the most sustainable and consumer preferred option to manage against sea-lice infestation.
“Playing an important role in improving the sustainability of farming salmon at sea is what really motivates us all at Ocean Matters,” he added.
It’s safe to say the working day at the Anglesey facility is not your typical 9-5, with the team working on a rota schedule.
“The fish never sleep, so someone needs to be there 24 hours a day,” said Werner.
“Mornings are spent checking water chemistry and temperature, checking on the fish and ensuring the nutrition and feed programs are correct.
“The afternoon is filled with non-routine projects so anything from laboratory analysis, fish harvesting, and research or innovation projects.”
The team, made up of 12 full time and three part time staff, also has a few extra hands in the form of Bangor and Swansea University marine biology students.
“The most satisfying part of my job, and the teams, is that we make a 100% difference to a fish’s health and particularly the Scottish salmon industry,” said Werner.
“We do have a few challenges: internally the technology we use is very complex, it’s safe to say there is never a dull moment.
“There is always training and re training for all the team, we always have to stay on top.
“The second biggest challenge is the newness of what we do and explaining our role in the industry to the salmon farmers and changing the way they do things.”
Werner admits that the company is very complex, however there is one area of the business he doesn’t worry about.
“I can tell you our accounts is the easiest aspect of the business,” said Werner.
“Ellis & Co have been our accountants since we set up the business in 2015, I did a search online and found the website to be very informative, I was impressed so called Robert and liked what he had to say.
“We’ve received first class service ever since, the level of service is honestly outstanding.
“I would certainly recommended Ellis & Co to any business.”
For further information about Ocean Matters Ltd click here.