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MOWI selects first salmon eggs for new Lochbroom fish broodstock facility

By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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The planned new development at Ardressie, Little Lochbroom.
The planned new development at Ardressie, Little Lochbroom.

Following the announcement of a new broodstock and egg facility to be built Wester Ross last February, Mowi have come back with an update to say they have selected the first salmon eggs for the new facility.

The new development in Ardressie, on the shores of Little Lochbroom, is said to include state–of–the–art technology including self–contained recirculating aquaculture systems and temperature control.

The firm previously said the production of broodstock in the new development will secure egg supply to Mowi Scotland, and be available to other companies, in order to improve the position for the salmon farming sector in Scotland as a whole. There will also be up to 10 direct new jobs in the Mowi broodstock facility, which aims to be in action by spring 2024.

For the past several years, Mowi says it had been reliant on external egg supply since the export ban of ova from Norway restricted the supply of high-quality eggs available to Scotland. It says recent approvals to produce broodstock and eggs in Scotland will help secure high-quality egg supply by enabling them to select parent fish whose offspring will be more robust to the specific challenges faced locally.

The first eggs have now been collected from specially selected Mowi broodstock. Picture: MOWI.
The first eggs have now been collected from specially selected Mowi broodstock. Picture: MOWI.

To prepare for a made-in-Scotland broodstock programme, the next generation salmon were taken in 2021 from Mowi nucleus in Ireland and raised at seawater farms in Scotland.

After a few weeks held in freshwater this autumn, Mowi breeding experts began checking the salmon for readiness to spawn and the first fish were identified as ripe and stripped of their eggs last month.

Egg stripping refers to when a female salmon is chosen and anaesthetized, she is removed from the water and 'stripped' of her eggs into a bowl. Then she is transferred to fisheries biologists who will collect data on length, weight, injuries and marks.

John Richmond, broodstock and post-smolt development manager, said: “The egg stripping has gone very well this season – considering this is only a temporary solution as we move to secure quality egg supply to Mowi Scotland with a bespoke facility.

“We envisage the new farm will produce up to 50 million eyed eggs to supply our production hatcheries. This facility should be complete in spring of 2025 in time for the next generation of broodstock,”

The company states that the new Ardessie facility will have the latest Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology to enable use of temperature and photoperiod regimes to produce early and late season eggs.

MOWI plans to blend the new development into the natural landscape.
MOWI plans to blend the new development into the natural landscape.

DNA analysis was undertaken during spawning and all the male fish were ranked by the Mowi geneticists according to their breeding index. The geneticists are said to be considering DNA markers that indicate high growth and robustness towards disease challenges, as well as flesh pigment quality.

Ben Hadfield, COO Farming Scotland, said: “Congratulations to the team in Mowi Scotland for their resilience and farming know-how that brings this all together to make it happen. This milestone is an important time for us as we secure future generations of top-quality salmon that contribute to the country’s most valuable food export.”

Mowi Scotland will soon be accepting applications for careers at its new broodstock facility at Ardessie. Career postings will be detailed at https://mowi.com/careers/vacancies/.

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