A Scottish company has confirmed it expects to have salmon eggs with improved resistance to sea lice on sale by the end of this year.
Landcatch hopes the move will be a further step forward in mitigating the destruction the pest wreaks on the aquaculture industry.
The sector has been looking at using wrasse, which eat the lice and cause no harm to the salmon, to solve the problem. Argyll-based Landcatch, which has its headquarters in Ormsary and a team of scientists in Stirling, has performed genetic screening to indicate which salmon are less likely to be affected by sea lice.
The firm's scientists found sea lice resistance is inherited with a small number of DNA regions having a large effect, around a hundred having a smaller impact and thousands of further regions with very small effects.
Landcatch takes a small fin sample from a fish and analyses more than 100,000 genetic markets. This helps them to predict the sea lice resistance of individual fish to be used in breeding.
Several million eggs from those specially selected Atlantic salmon will be made available by December, which is the company's next spawning date.
Dr Alan Tinch, director of genetics at Landcatch, said: "We are excited to bring this advance in technology to market and to take a step forward in reducing the impact of sea lice on welfare and performance of salmon."
Landcatch, a subsidiary of Dutch business Hendrix Genetics, has been working with Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh universities, including The Roslin Institute and Edinburgh Genomics, and genetics analysing company Affymetrix on the project.
Backers include the Technology Strategy Board, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.