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Growing Aquaculture Problem

Marine aquaculture is surrounded by major problem of of sea lice infestation, diseases, harsh environmental conditions and predators leading to heavy losses. Sea Lice infestation being one of the major impeding factors for the growth of the marine aquaculture industry. Salmon farming industry spends billions to control sea lice numbers.

Few of the traditional Sea lice treatment methods in salmon farms includes medicated feed, medicated bath treatments, natural predators, and mechanical barriers. A decade ago, 100% of the treatment focused on pharmaceutical methods. Recently there has been a surge of innovations on trying to alleviate the sea lice infestation problem. Due to the increasing drug-resistance in sea lice, focus has shifted towards non-pharmaceutical methods of controlling sea lice.

More recently a new method to control sea lice infestation in salmon farms is being used, which consists of mechanically blocking the lice from entering the cage. Lice “Skirts” or “Shields” are installed around the cage at depths ranging from 5-10 meters. This method of controlling sea lice numbers has a major advantage that lice will not develop resistance to the “treatment” method and can be used to control all stages of the sea lice. The major challenge with using shielding skirts is the blocking of water exchange and hence dissolved oxygen which is detrimental to the fish. Sea skirts are installed around the aquaculture cages as shown below.

Furthermore strong water currents cause drag resulting in lift up of the shielding skirt thereby allowing sea lice larvae to enter into the cage. Few hundred lice larvae entering into the cage due to the water currents can result in huge losses. Further, biofouling quickly grows on the Shielding skirt which further reduces water exchange and increases the drag thus resulting in further lift up of the shielding skirts above the desired depths. In the light of the foregoing, there was an immediate need to for a fabric that not only blocks all stages of lice but also reduces the drag but also reduces the fouling on the shielding skirts.

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