• Biofouling of the hydroid Ectopleura larynx on aquaculture nets in Ireland: implications for finfish health

      Baxter, E.J.; Sturt, M.M.; Ruane, N.M.; Doyle, T.K.; McAllen, R.; Rodger, H.D. (Fish Veterinary Society, 2012)
      The potential direct health problems posed to marine-farmed salmonids by the biofouling hydroid Ectopleura larynx (Phylum Cnidaria, Class Hydrozoa) and in situ net washing processes to remove the fouling organisms have not yet been addressed. In an attempt to address the possible impacts, the rate of E. larynx growth on aquaculture nets over a net-cleaning cycle was assessed and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) smolts were exposed to hydroid-biofouled nets under experimental challenge. After only 1 week of immersion, there was a high settlement of E. larynx on net panels, with the maximum growth observed after 3 week of immersion. For the challenges trials, experimental treatment groups of S. salar were exposed to hydroid net panels or loose hydroid material for 11 hours under controlled conditions. Gills were examined for signs of gross damage and assigned a histopathological gill score. Prior to the experiment, the gills were healthy and did not show signs of damage from any insult. After exposure to E. larynx, focal areas of epithelial sloughing, necrosis and haemorrhage were visible on the gills under histopathology and a maximum gill score of 4 was observed. These results are the first in an investigation of this kind and suggest that E. larynx can damage the gills of S. salar. Further work on this area is vital to develop a better understanding of the pathogenesis of the damage caused by hydroids and their long-term effects on fish health, growth and survival.