Media Release: Expansion planned for Argyll-based international research facility


ONE of the largest aquaculture research facilities in Europe is undertaking an expansion which will reinforce the reputation of Scotland as a world leader in marine science.

The Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL), part of the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, is based at Machrihanish in Argyll. It provides contract research services and facilities to industry and academics working within the aquaculture sector, including a number of multinational corporations.

The laboratory’s main focus is around new product development in veterinary medicine, vaccines and functional feeds for the salmon farming industry. MERL has long term service agreements with a number of multinational animal health organisations to develop a range of safe and environmentally acceptable products for sea lice control, including those derived from natural products. Sea lice are a major threat to the industry, with losses estimated in the region of £33m in Scotland and £305m worldwide.

MERL is looking to upgrade and enhance its research facilities, confirming its enviable reputation in the marine science community.

Supported by £90,192 from economic development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the £322,819 expansion project will increase the number of research tanks at the facility. This will deliver an increase in research capacity, increasing employment and growing turnover.

Dr Bill Roy from MERL, commented: “This new development is a welcome addition to the University of Stirling’s research facilities at Machrihanish. We work closely with the aquaculture industry to tackle some of the important issues which affect its productivity and public reputation. The industry plays a major role in the economy of the Highlands and Islands and investment in research infrastructure is vital to maintain and develop this sector for the wider public benefit.”

Morag Goodfellow of HIE, commented: “MERL has an impressive client list including feed companies and multinational fish farming organisations. The research undertaken at the centre is important in safeguarding the longevity of the aquaculture industry – which is also a significant employer across the Highlands and Islands. This project is a key element in increasing the capacity of the centre and building on what is already considered a high quality research and development institution.”

Argyll is already home to a significant and innovative marine sciences cluster. The Scottish Marine Institute at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, is home to the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology and the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) – an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands. HIE has also developed the multi-million pound European Marine Science Park next to SAMS which provides space for the growth of existing and new businesses which wish to tap into the region’s world leading reputation in marine science research and development.


Photographs are attached to accompany this release.
Pictured here (L-R) Dr David Bassett, Dr Andrew Davie, Morag Goodfellow, HIE and Dr Bill Roy from MERL.Credit: Stuart Andrew/HIE
Please contact for additional pictures.

The Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL)

The Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL) is a purpose-built aquaculture facility located in Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland.

The site was founded in 1991, and expanded in 1998. In 2008 it took over operation of the facilities of MMF Ltd, the UK’s largest commercial cod hatchery, to provide one of the largest and best equipped marine aquaculture research facilities in Europe. The facility provides contract research services and hire of facilities to industry and academic institutions and supports research and teaching at the Institute of Aquaculture.

The Institute of Aquaculture

The Institute of Aquaculture is the leading international centre in its field and is the largest of its kind in the world. With an excellent RAE 2008 outcome, we bring together cross-disciplinary, world class researchers to meet the wide range of challenges faced as aquaculture grows to meet global demands.

University of Stirling

Founded by Royal Charter in 1967, the University of Stirling was the first genuinely new university in Scotland for over 400 years. Working with academic, commercial, public, private and voluntary sector partners, Stirling is one of the UK’s leading research universities in the fields of health and wellbeing, the environment and people, culture and society, enterprise and the economy, and sport. For more information, please visit

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