Sit-ups, crunches, weightlifting, interval training -- sounds like a rigorous workout for anyone trying to get in shape. Could this be a fitness regimen for salmon too? That's what the scientists in Norway are trying to prove.
Since training and exercise are essential in maintaining good health for humans, could the same be applied to fish? In order to make farmed salmon stronger and more resistant to disease once they are transferred to ocean cages, a research group in Norway is trying to get farmed juvenile salmon in shape for ocean water using some techniques from the top football team of Spain (we here in the U.S. call it soccer). Scientists from the project discovered that the heart capacity in wild salmon is greater than in farmed salmon, so they put the farmed salmon on a strict training regime to make their hearts stronger.
The exercise? They say the equivalent of jogging -- swimming faster with increased water velocity in their tanks. The fish in the trial were divided into three groups -- one was a control group (normal fish tank conditions), one group was put in a tank with increased water velocity throughout the day, and one group was put in a tank for "jogging" or intervals of increased water velocity (what the scientists call "high intensity training").
And how do they measure their heart rates? With tiny heart monitors, of course. Although the experiment is still ongoing, the scientists are optimistic that their training program will help farmed fish handle the stresses of the ocean. Senior scientist, Harald Takle said:
Less stress means the fish have greater energy reserves to tackle the challenges of everyday life...In the long-term, we believe that this can make the fish even more robust. It's just like with us humans, healthier fish thrive better, and this will in turn increase profitability for the salmon farmers
While the researchers claim that less stress could reduce the chance of disease in farmed salmon, the experiment is not getting to the root of the problem. Cramming thousands of genetically identical fish in ocean cages will inevitably lead to the spreading of disease.
Once one gets sick, they often all get sick and can even spread diseases to wild salmon populations. Instead of spending millions of dollars on a short-sighted experiments, these groups should be investing in research on promoting sustainable wild fisheries. Scientists need to be looking at the bigger picture to protect marine resources rather than trying to solve the numerous problems created by fish farms.