New project to more accurately model salmon farms’ environmental impact
Published on 2 November 2021
University of Dundee researchers are helping develop a more accurate way of predicting how salmon farms interact with their surrounding environment, enhancing the sector’s overall sustainability
The project is a collaborative effort between the University of Dundee, the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) and Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).
The groups are exploring how the current model used to understand the interaction between fish farms and the seabed, known as NewDEPOMOD, can better reflect the physical and ecological conditions in different parts of Scotland.
Using the University’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, the Dundee team will conduct a series of tests where they will mimic the hydrodynamic conditions and sediment bed characteristics in different types of waters in Scotland.
They will then model the settling, deposition, and resuspension of waste matter from fish farms to see how they will react within these environments. The data will then be used to improve the quality of information and the accuracy of the predictions used to determine the best locations for salmon farms in Scottish waters.
“We’re looking to help create a model that will deliver better predictions about the dispersal and settling patterns of waste materials from fish farms," said Alan Cuthbertson, senior lecturer in environmental fluid mechanics within the University's School of Science and Engineering.
“We want everyone involved to have maximum confidence in the models used to locate fish farms and predict their environmental impact, minimise impact on the seabed, and ensure the sector is as sustainable as possible.
“In the coming months, we will use our labs to verify the settling and resuspension rates of waste materials and test a range of different scenarios that better reflect conditions in Scotland’s coastal waters and apply these to NewDEPOMOD.”
The project builds on the work undertaken over the last two years by SAMS, SSPO, and SAIC, in consultation with SEPA, with the addition of expertise in environmental fluid mechanics and sediment transport dynamics from the University of Dundee.
Helena Reinardy, teaching fellow and researcher at SAMS, said: “Scotland is leading the way in developing NewDEPOMOD, creating a model that is more tailored to the conditions at sites across the country.
“The first phase of this project set the foundations for defining the parameters that inform decisions about fish farms locations, and this next phase will progress that even further with the addition of the University of Dundee. Ultimately, we want to create an interface between the sector and regulators that is not only useful for them both, but informed by the best science available too.”
In addition, the project will provide the salmon producing sector with training on, and guidelines for, working with the new models, as well as an enhanced software package and user interface for individuals using NewDEPOMOD. The consortium will also organise a series of workshops to facilitate communication between the sector and regulators.
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