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The cage facility at Solheim is one of two modern cage farms at Matre Research Station. The picture has been taken during a study involving underwater illumination.
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What is new?

  • Temperatures down to 1 °C and up to 20 °C controlled to 0.3 °C accuracy all year round. Super-cooled water (below 0 °C) and water with temperature above 20 °C can be made available for shorter periods of time
  • All salinities between 0 and 35 ppt
  • Photoperiod and light intensity control
  • Cycles (e.g. daily, monthly and yearly) in all water quality parameters can be programmed and closely monitored.
  • Water flow can be regulated in litres or to give a pre-programmed oxygen level in the outlet and oxygenated fresh or seawater can be added to all tanks.
  • Other gases or fluids (e.g. carbondioxide, ammonia) can be added.
  • A large quarantine section enables work with animals with unknown health status, and the station is also certified for work with GMOs.
  • The facilities and experiments can be followed and controlled over the web (through a vpn client).As a consequence the involved scientists can keep track of their experiments wherever they are in the world,

These changes enables us to do focused, short term or long term studies on highlighted research areas like environmental effects, escaped fish and genetic interactions, fish behavior, welfare and welfare indicators, reproductive biology and climatic change including ocean acidification. IMR Matre has access to cultured and wild stocks of salmonids like Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and Atlantic cod. The available Atlantic salmon stocks include wild salmon from several Norwegian rivers, and wild cod stocks. The facilities has also been used for species like halibut, herring, mackerel and horse mackerel, and also have the necessary permissions to hold species like capelin, hake, sand eel, saithe, sea bass, sea bream, krill and lobster.

The present scientific activity at the facility is divided into four major research areas: Animal welfare, the effect of climate change on marine organisms, and growth and reproductive physiology.

Animal welfare

Animal welfare is highlighted as one of major aquaculture research areas at Institute of Marine Research. The major goals of this research area is to identify environmental standards that secure animal welfare, to create basic knowledge on relationships between the culture environment and the animals coping ability, to identify welfare indicators and methods to assess welfare and to develop and evaluate production strategies and technology that secure animal welfare and efficient production.
In aquaculture cage-systems, the fish are often exposed to huge daily variations in environmental factors. A typical example is salmon in cages which are exposed to tidal changes in water currents and oxygen levels and changes in temperature and salinity because of vertical migration. It is possible to monitor the environmental conditions and the behavior of the fish in these systems, but the size of the cages makes it difficult to sample for physiological parameters. However, with the new cutting edge facilities we can repeat large scale experiments in a model system with regulation of photoperiod, temperature, salinity and oxygen content of the water, and to record the response (e.g. behavior, stress and feed intake) of the fish to changes in the environment. At the same time the facilities allows for easy handling of the animals and easy monitoring and sampling for physiology and molecular biology.


A printout of the screen showing one of the computer controlled environmental laboratories. From the original six water qualities (up right), the water is mixed to the wanted water quality (in this case 16 C freshwater) in the header tank. From the header tank the water is distributed to the experimental tanks. In this experiment oxygenated water is added to keep the oxygen level at 90%. The fish is reared under a 12:12 photoperiod and have been given 100% of their daily ration. Oxygen level can also be controlled by regulating the water flow and CO2 can be added.


The effect of climate change on marine organisms

Climate change is the major environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators. Also for the marine ecosystems it has been predicted dramatic scenarios for changes in temperature and chemistry. One of the major goals of our research program ‘Climate – Fish’ is to understand and quantify the significance of climatic change for reproduction, production, distribution and behavior of marine organisms and production and regionalization of the aquaculture industry. Until now this has been hindered by a lacks of facilities for long term studies involving multifactorial changes in e.g. temperature and chemistry (e.g. CO2 and pH). It is not uncommon that the processes that we want to study can go on for a long time, e. g. sexual maturation in salmon can be initiated more than one year before the actual spawning. In the new facilities it is possible to programme different climate scenarios and test their long term effect on biological processes. In a recent study we have studied the physiology of large salmon kept at high temperatures. Together with oceanographic modeling these studies can be used to predict how different regions in Norway will be affected by climate change.

Growth and reproductive physiology

Growth and reproductive physiology is a research area where the Institute of Marine Research is highly profiled and considered to be in the international research front. The main goals of this area are to increase the knowledge about the environmental, physiological and molecular regulation of puberty, broodfish and egg quality, sex differentiation and muscle and skeletal development (including malformations), and studies on both farmed and wild fish is included. The new facilities make it possible to keep all stages of fish under strict environmental control. This includes large aquaculture broodfish of salmon and cod, and through the quarantine facilities, broodfish from a range of wild species. The possibility of keeping wild fish under controlled environmental conditions has been used to study gonadal development of species like herring, mackerel and horse mackerel and how their reproductive potential is influenced by feed availability and pollution.