Thursday, October 7, 2010

Site Visit: Howietoun Fish Farm

This week our MSc class got the opportunity to visit Howietoun Fish Farm, a commercial and research facility owned and operated by the Institute of Aquaculture. At this site, there is a hatchery for brown trout (Salmo trutta) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), as well as a smolting unit for salmon and a fishery for brown trout.

This visit was during our module on ‘Aquaculture and the Environment’, and as such our focus was on the environmental impacts associated with the fish farm. The facility is fed from a stream that runs through the area, and so we started by looking at the entire catchment to help determine the quality of water running into the farm. We then visited the farm itself, touring all three units in detail.

We took water samples to analyze for different water quality parameters, as well as measurements of the physical characteristics of the water (dissolved oxygen, temperature, and oxygen saturation). Additionally, we took biological samples in the forms of plankton tows, kick samples, and sediment grabs. All this data will be synthesized back at the Institute and the assessment for this module will be based on a group presentation, as well as individual reports, focusing on this information.

The tour started in the hatchery, were we covered spawning techniques and egg husbandry for both brown trout and Atlantic salmon. We then moved to the smolting unit, where salmon are prepared to make the transition from the freshwater they were born in to the saltwater where they will spend a majority of their lives. Finally, we visited the fishery for brown trout, where the fish are kept in large earthen ponds until they reach a size suitable for stocking sportfishing waters.

It was a very interesting tour, and it was really cool to see some of the practices we have discussed in class put into action. It will also be interesting to work up the samples that we obtained, as that is the only way to determine what sort of impacts the operation is having on the surrounding environment.

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