Developing a zooplankton challenge model for Atlantic salmon

This feasibility study aims to develop a lab-based challenge model, using lab-reared micro jellyfish, to assess the damage they cause to fish gills; this will enable research into treatments and feeds for use in salmonid aquaculture.

Project Summary

Project life: 5 months

This project has provided a proof-of-concept that a challenge study with lab-reared jellyfish for salmon is feasible.

Gill disease is one of the most significant health challenges to salmonid culture in the marine environment. Harmful zooplankton, such as jellyfish or cnidarians, are thought to play an important role in disease development, but there is a lack of scientific and technical understanding of the interactions between jellyfish or cnidarians and fish gills that can only be obtained through a lab-based challenge model using lab-reared organisms. This project demonstrated that it is feasible to develop such a challenge model. Specifically, we were able to produce a pre-determined quantity of jellyfish at a pre-determined point in time, transport them, and challenge salmon with these live jellyfish. The aim was to develop gill disease in fish. However, we observed minimal gross gill disease in challenged fish, no histopathological differences between gills of challenged and non-challenged fish and no immune response, implying that the challenge model needs further optimisation. Therefore, the challenge model developed in this project will be a starting point for further optimisation of this model.

The demonstration of the feasibility of a jellyfish challenge to salmon is a major step forward in developing a standardised zooplankton challenge that may eventually help improve our understanding of the interactions between jellyfish and the salmon gill and allow us to investigate multifactorial gill diseases under controlled conditions, develop improved functional feeds for gill disease and evaluate existing and new mitigation methods.


The UK Seafood Innovation Fund supports new ideas to deliver cutting-edge technology and innovation to the UK’s fishing, aquaculture and seafood industries. Administered by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the programme encourages sustainable and innovative ideas to bring about seafood security, new partnerships across seafood and technology sectors, and to contribute to strong evidence-based management. Find out more about the UK Seafood Innovation Fund on their website and on Twitter @SeafoodFund.


Project lead: SAC Commercial Ltd, the commercial arm of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)

Other partnersMoredun Scientific, Marine Biological Association of the UK, University of Glasgow, Life Diagnostics

Funding: Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF) with additional support from SAIC - £50,000 and £5,000 respectively