MeioMetBar (eDNA assessment of communities under salmon farms)

Genetic barcoding to monitor the effect of marine cage farms on benthic communities content

Genetic barcoding to monitor the effect of marine cage farms on benthic communities

Salmon farms are required to monitor changes in the benthic communities in transects under and around their fish-cages as part of their SEPA licence conditions.  The current approach uses traditional taxonomy to assess the benthic community in the transect samples.  This approach demands considerable taxonomic expertise, is expensive, and takes several months to complete leading to delays in impact remediation.  Another problem with this approach is that the results take several months to produce preventing active farm management.

MeioMetBar was a partnership project between SAMS-UHI, RLI-UHI, MOWI Scotland and SEPA, funded by SAIC, to develop an alternative monitoring approach.  In this approach, sediment-dwelling organisms (bacteria or eukaryotes) are identified by their DNA using high-throughput DNA sequencing (‘genetic metabarcoding’).  MeioMetBar demonstrated that benthic bacterial assemblages characterized by this DNA sequencing approach responded consistently to fish farm impacts, and that the method could also be used to identify key indicator eukaryote species.

Research started in the MeioMetBar project is currently being extended by a graduate student at RLI-UHI.  A proposed follow-up project, BactMetBar, will deliver a tool to enable the sector, and regulators, to apply eDNA-based macrobenthic assessments as part of regulatory compliance assessments.


SAMS Project Page:

Key contacts: Tom Wilding (SAMS), Barbara Morrissey (RLI)