Parasite-Eating Lumpfish Are Being Put To Work On Fish Farms, But They Need To Make It There Alive

Source: Hakai Magazine/Sarah Keartes 

Photo: Derek Keats/Wikimedia Commons 


Every globetrotter has a favorite way to relax—a yoga mat, a glass of wine, a favorite tea—to keep the stresses of travel at bay. The same can’t quite be said for the millions of lumpfish carted from fish farm to fish farm in Norway, but scientists have found the next best thing: anesthetic.

Norway is one of the biggest producers of farmed fish in the world, and the top two species reared in the country are Atlantic salmon and lumpfish—small, ball-like suckerfish native to the Atlantic Ocean. Googly eyes and built-in suction cups have landed the particularly cute lumpfish, also called lumpsuckers, a pinch of internet stardom. But it’s the lumpfish’s taste for parasites that makes it extremely valuable to salmon aquaculture.

There’s a problem, however: these living pest-removers are sensitive to travel stress, and many die while being transported by truck or boat from the lumpfish farms where they’re born to the salmon farms where they’ll be put to work. Now, a team of Norwegian researchers has evaluated a variety of anesthetics, testing each to see how effective it is at knocking lumpfish out. By unraveling the best way to put them under, the scientists hope to keep more lumpfish alive en route.

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Photo: Derek Keats/Wikimedia Commons

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