Towards cost‐effective biofouling management in salmon aquaculture: a strategic outlook
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Biofouling is an ongoing challenge for marine salmon aquaculture, impacting farming operations, fish health and welfare. Current mitigation strategies employed in Norway and Scotland rely mainly on the use of antifouling coatings and reactive removal of biofouling. These approaches are not only costly and of limited efficacy, but also pose active risks and likely contribute to mortality of fish during grow-out at sea. Given the inefficiencies of current biofouling management approaches and the industry’s objectives for growth and sustainability, a strategic assessment of future avenues for biofouling management is needed. We here present such an assessment and outline three novel biofouling management strategies that, once implemented, could facilitate improved fish health and welfare, reduced environmental impacts and benefits to the public perception of fish farming. These strategies are based on: (i) efficient antifouling coatings; (ii) antifouling combined with intermittent cleaning; and (iii) grooming of nets. We discuss the advantages, challenges and research and development needs associated with the realisation of these strategies. Drawing on experiences from agricultural systems and invasive species management, we show how the costs involved in the implementation of new strategies will over time be offset by the direct and indirect benefits arising from a reduction in environmental and fish health impacts and an increase in the industry’s social licence to operate.