The specialist salmon louse, sea lice, is a parasite that constitutes the biggest pest management issue in Atlantic salmon culture in the Northern hemisphere. Over the last years, sea lice infestations have become the biggest economic threat to the industry. This project support sustainable practice of salmon aquaculture activity as well as to improve the existing knowledge on sea lice. Possible negative consequences of sea lice from farms on wild sea trout may be demonstrated through tracking and tagging studies. The resulting model built with empirical data may support decisions on sustainable aquaculture practices. The project results aims at reducing social conflicts with farm stakeholders and aquaculture industry. The project results will be submitted for publication to international peer reviewed scientific journals and presented in international conferences and workshops. Project promoter, University of Alicante, is an expert in the study of marine fish movements in the aquaculture. Donor partner, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, brings internationally recognized expertise on the study of sea lice and its impact on salmonid fishes.
Summary of project results
The specialist salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis Kroyer (subphylum Crustacea), sea lice, is a marine copepod parasite that constitutes the biggest pest management issue in Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar L.) culture in the Northern hemisphere. Over the last years, sea lice infestation have become the biggest economic threat to the industry, but also have intensified in both farmed and wild salmonids, being detrimental to the growth and health of the fish. In efforts to manage the problem, fish farming industries and governments in the main farming countries in Europe (Norway, Iceland, Scotland) have implemented country specific sea lice management protocols, for example enforcing legal maximum limits on the mean number of lice per fish using different chemical and biological treatments against sea lice. The project has aimed at understanding the interactions among salmon farms, the parasite sea lice, wild sea populations and environmental characteristics, contributing towards the evidence of sea lice impacts on wild fish stocks in Norwegian fjord systems and the improvement of sea lice management strategies at salmon farms. Furthermore, it shall help diminish the recently heated stakeholder conflicts and the implementation of extensive and costly management measure in most of the salmon producing countries. The project completed the following tasks: 1) Knowledge summary: review of existing knowledge about sea lice on salmon farms and on wild salmonid populations; 2) Lice monitoring through live capture of sea trout, lice counting, fish tagging and release; 3) Vaccine test on live captured sea trout, tagging and release; 4) Tracking sea trout with acoustic tags within a receiver’s network; 5) Modelling lice-infected sea trout populations in Norwegian fjord systems; these processes leaded to 6) Evaluation and suggestion of sustainable aquaculture management strategies. The results have been used for implementing management strategies at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, the Norwegian Environmental Agency and regional Management associations. Presentations have been performed via reports and presentations during meetings with stakeholders and farmers.
Summary of bilateral results
The degradation of renewable marine resources is one of the most tangible evidence of changes induced by humans on marine ecosystems, in particular those affected by the aquaculture activity. This degradation has direct and indirect consequences at economic, environmental and social level, both from a global point of view and from a regional perspective. The development of efficient management methods that combine regional and trans-regional scales with a multidisciplinary and effective approach is a first necessity at regional, national and European level. The knowledge acquired in the present project is highly relevant to improve sustainability of farming industry, but also to preserve coastal ecosystems and services through a balanced and integrated management. During the project new collaborations were established and different aspects of the project were discussed with third organisms. For instance, new partnerships from Norway and other countries joined the project, enabling to compare the effects of sea lice on wild salmonids in other parts of the world (i.e. Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Canada). These collaborations were very helpful during the process of the project, but will be during the following years, since new proposals and projects are being developed for other calls from the Norwegian Research Council and other European calls. For instance, the beneficiary is currently in a pre-proposal to the Horizon 2020 program regarding siting of fish farms in relation to wild salmonid stocks and the risk assessment of salmon lice. Partners have planned further activities for 2016, in collaboration with the National Salmon Lice Monitoring programme, the Norwegian Research Council programme on wild salmonids and salmon lice. In addition, a new project will be developed in the Romsdalsfjord region (More and Romsdal in Norway) to monitor a wild sea trout population using fish telemetry techniches (pit-tagging) along freshwater and fjord systems, as it was suggested in the project. Furthermore, academic cooperations and exchanges of knowledge and researchers will continue taking place between partners.