Work by water quality team has positive impact on fish health
Sandra Huynh taking water samples
Our knowledge and mitigation strategies to deal with the challenges presented by plankton has come a long way in the last two years thanks to the hard work by our water quality team, headed up by Bogdan Vornicu.
The team has increased from one person to six people and the programmes in place to train staff and better equip our business to deal with plankton has increased fivefold.
We caught up with the whole team to find out more.
“Working in the water quality team is a continuous learning curve, it is a combination of science and operations,” says Bogdan. “As a biologist, I love it because we have to constantly improve our knowledge and our approach to protect the fish in our care.”
As we begin August, we are reaching the peak season for plankton blooms which can still occur throughout September. Bogdan has cause for optimism at this stage of the summer: “So far there has been almost no impact on fish from plankton blooms this summer. All the training we have done and the tools we have put in place have paid off. But there is no room for complacency, we are also therefore monitoring environmental parameters to try to understand when plankton blooms are toxic and what triggers them to become toxic and ultimately harmful to our salmon.”
Sandra Huynh analysing samples
A focus on training
Staff are taken through five programmes, a combination of online and in-person teaching, to understand plankton and be able to make informed decisions on which tools to use to mitigate the risk to fish.
Familiarisation – knowing how to distinguish between non-harmful algae (thallophyte) growing on the nets and jellyfish hydroid colonies with venomous stinging cells that harm fish.
Assessment – being able to determine if the jellyfish hydroid colonies growing on the fish nets may represent a risk for fish health during the nets washing process. This knowledge influences decisions on when to wash the nets, whether to use aeration and whether or not to feed the fish.
Identification – knowing which species of jellyfish are present in the water around our farms.
Microscopic jellyfish – perhaps the hardest to spot and identify and which can pose the biggest threat to our salmon.
Net washing – only recently released and following a significant research project, this programme examines the hydrodynamics of the aeration system and helps us use it to our advantage so that when we clean our nets, the fish only swim through clean water and are not exposed to debris.
It’s a team effort with everyone in the water quality team playing a different role.
Sandra Huynh is Water Quality Assistant Manager, working closely with Bogdan. A big focus for her is data analysis and overseeing the plankton, jellyfish and hydroid procedures. Sandra handles the enquiries from site teams when they need support and analyses water samples for nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate. She also helps to manage the two water quality teams in the production areas of Broughton and Port Hardy.
With Mowi for two years now, Sandra believes there has been a noticeable culture shift: “The increased investment and enhanced management into water quality at Mowi now means that we are consistently monitoring water. We are proactive, not reactive, and this is really starting to pay off.”
Kaitlin Guitard and Matt McGoveran work in the Broughton production area, visiting our farms and helping them implement our water quality procedures. As a former sea site technician herself, Kaitlin enjoys her role where she can combine scientific and farming knowledge:
“I actually have a background in agriculture and after working as a sea site technician and seeing the work that Bogdan was doing to increase our knowledge of plankton and jellyfish, I asked to transfer to the water quality team and I’m so glad I did. I love working with the teams on our farms and I can see so many improvements in the health of our fish even from last summer to this summer and I really believe that the water quality department has played a big role in that.”
Having been in the industry for seven years, Matt has spent a lot of time on salmon farms and has seen many changes in how farms monitor, assess, and mitigate the risk involved from environmental factors, especially in the last couple of years:
“Our water quality team has changed things for the better. All sites are proactively involved in monitoring our environment and the level of communication and cooperation between our farms and this team has changed beyond recognition. The teamwork and communication with our farms is extremely important because it builds confidence both ways – the farm teams know that we are there to help support them with identification, risk assessment, and mitigation strategies, then we as a water quality team feel confident because the more questions we get, the more confident we are that we are consistently monitoring across the area.”
The success of the water quality team in the Broughton production area meant that we were able to replicate this model for our Port Hardy farms. Here our farms are supported by Michael Ralph and Michael Fouquette from the water quality team, who enjoy being part of such a close-knit team and relish the opportunity to continue to roll out this science-based, and data-driven approach to aquaculture which is having a noticeable positive impact on fish health.