At UNH’s Coastal Marine Lab in New Castle, N.H., Elizabeth Fairchild raises and researches lumpfish as a potential pest-management solution for the aquaculture industry. Fairchild, research associate professor of biological sciences, is testing whether using lumpfish as “cleanerfish” — fish that eat parasites off other fish — may be a sustainable way to manage a common parasite known as sea lice that preys on farmed salmon. Lumpfish, Fairchild explains, eat sea lice off salmonids that are farmed in cages in nearshore coastal waters in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
The research could have far-reaching benefits: The global economic impact of aquaculture is greater than $31 billion. “Today many leased sites in Maine are not used or sit fallow for extended periods because of historically high sea lice concentrations,” Fairchild says. “Using cleanerfish to decrease the damage inflicted by sea lice can increase domestic salmonid production because more farm sites can be used — and used more frequently.”