Posted by: marineharvestcanada | August 10, 2009

Portable ultrasound unit boon to broodstock program

Marine Harvest has a new piece of equipment as part of its broodstock program that is paying early dividends.

It’s an ultrasound monitor called an Easi-Scan, which is manufactured in the United Kingdom by BCF, and is leading to solid efficiencies both in terms of work and costs. The unit has been used for many years “in agriculture, for cattle, sheep, and horses,” said Broodstock Program Manager, Robin Muzzerall, adding that “it allows us to look inside the fish at the developing gonads and ovaries.” Robin said, “I can see how it’s going to be a good tool” and will help Marine Harvest reach its goal of “spawning the best fish,” both in terms of timing and quality.

The advantages to the Easi-Scan are many, not the least of which is being able to clearly differentiate between female and male fish. This is key because it means fish can be sexed identified as male or female) correctly at a much earlier stage than in the past.

Without the Easi-Scan, fish that were thought to have been female were often found to be males. More females than males are required so when males are clearly identified, many become production fish and can be sent to harvest. The equipment consists of a portable unit that is relatively water resistant and which fits into a medium sized back pack. Goggles, attached to a head band, and a wand that is scanned across the fish complete the package. It runs on rechargeable batteries, making it ideal for use at both salt water sites and hatcheries.

With this equipment, we’re able to “only bring in (to the broodstock program) sure things,” said Robin. With the ultrasound, technicians can also “see if there’s a problem with egg quality or other issues that would make it difficult to use the female fish as broodstock.” The Easi-Scan is also a powerful predictor of which females are likely to spawn first, leading to an economizing of fresh water use since only those fish that will spawn are brought to fresh water.

Staff are currently fine-tuning their skill in using the equipment and learning how to interpret its data. Effective use of the ultrasound is almost more of an art than just a skill, commented Robin. “We are still learning what we can do with this equipment,” she said, commenting that this is the first year it’s been in wide-spread use in BC.

A future application for the ultrasound would be to help us in identifying grilse, a process that would be less disruptive to the fish than what is currently used.

By Gina Forsyth

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