54 days to go

I was in Kintyre for the day and spent the afternoon at Stirling University's Marine Environment Research Laboratory at Machrihanish . This was a long standing invitation to me as the local MSP from Stirling's Vice Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac and I lunch with Gerry and the Director of Research, Dr John Rogers, before the visit.

Just this week HIE announced additional support for the facility so it was good to see it at first hand.

MERL has two parts - the Stirling University research station which is now the centre piece of the Aquaculture Innovation Centre funded by SFC and a joint venture with Marine Harvest which is developing the use of wrasse as a lice control.

I was shown round by Professor Jimmy Turnbull and Dr Bill Roy, amongst others, and I saw lots of very interesting work on disease and feeding in the Stirling University part and then had a fascinating look at the cutting edge work being done to breed , develop and utilise wrasse in the aquaculture industry. Paul Featherstone who runs the wrasse facility was a mine of information and has certainly been central to taking the idea and making it work though, as he himself admits, there is much still to do.

His knowledge of the species is encyclopaedic. As I was taking this shot he told me that wrasse "roost" at night and that bit of information followed up extraordinary detail about their family groupings and how they socialise.

This wrasse - part of the first brood stock and therefore a key part of the future of salmon farming in Scotland - is pictured in an artificial environment mimicking kelp beds. It seemed quite content to be resting there.

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