Local groups concerned about sea lice infection in Pacific Salmon

Paul Hutchings
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Miranda Pryor

A study has found sea lice infections at fish farms in British Columbia could be linked to increased mortality among wild salmon, which contradicts a previous study.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation said those incidents of infections are something Newfoundland fish farms should be watching for, as the aquaculture industry grows in this province.

Don Ivany, the foundation’s regional director, said the aquaculture industry does some monitoring of its own fish, but wild salmon that could be swimming past fish farming facilities aren’t necessarily monitored.

“We’re not quite sure of any level of monitoring that has occurred. It’s one of those grey areas we really aren’t sure of,” said Ivany.

“Inspections are supposed to be taking place within the aquaculture industry but often aren’t, and when they aren’t, violations often aren’t detected and action is not taking place.”

Sea lice attach themselves to salmon or any fish to feed on blood. In the wild salmon population, juveniles are particularly vulnerable, Ivany said, and when a young fish gets seven or eight sea lice attached to its body, as has been found on the west coast, that fish could die.

It’s not unusual for anglers to pull a wild salmon from a river with a couple of lice attached to it.

When the salmon move from the salt water of the ocean to the fresh water of a river it usually kills the lice, as lice cannot adapt to fresh water.

“If (an angler catches) a salmon with sea lice on it that means it just came in from the ocean,” said Ivany. “I won’t say they’re common but they’re not uncommon either, but they tend to fall off after a few days in fresh water.”

Miranda Pryor, executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, said her group is just as concerned with sea ice, but Newfoundland and Labrador’s colder water temperatures means sea lice is not as much of a problem as on the Pacific coast.

“That’s one of the natural ways of helping to avoid the problem,” she said.

“Salmon runs are primarily in the spring and because sea lice are very temperature dependent we don’t see them until later in the summer when the water temperature is at its peak.”

She said owners of fish-farming facilities have several rules to follow. The farms are regularly monitored and health reports have to be routinely submitted to fish health authorities. Any treatments, she said, are also monitored.


The Western Star


Organizations: Newfoundland and Lab, Canadian Hurricane Centre, Environment Canada Canadian Press

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, North Eastern United States Southern Labrador Happy Valley Goose Bay

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Recent comments

  • DC Reid
    September 01, 2011 - 12:57

    I write on fish farm issues on the west coast in BC. I put it this way: any reasonable person who Googles fish farm science will find that it is ten feet deep saying that fish farms need to be in closed-containers, on-land. And, it is becoming clear that different species other than Atlantic salmon should be farmed. If you want to see some up-to-date articles on the Cohen Commission into the Fraser River sockeye collapse, go to: www.catchsalmonbc.com and read the first three articles. They have numerous weblinks for copying and pasting. The public has been working for almost 15 years to get fish farms out of BC water. And look at Chile. The Norwegian derivatives have caused great damage, with 500 farms having to slaughter their fish from imported ISA disease, a $2billion loss, 13,000 thrown out of work, and 63 workers have died. Marine Harvest lost 1.4 billion Euros. Just look. it is grim.In NF the government is behind more farms. This is very sad as you will start wanting them out of the water soon. If problems start, the farms that cause the problems, will likely want compensation, odd as that may sound. Fish farms have taken ISA to every place they have set up shop: Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Chile, USA (Maine), Canada (NB). BC now looks to have two strains of ISA, a tragedy as we have five species of Pacific salmon that feel effects. DC Reid

  • Katie
    August 29, 2011 - 14:44

    ASF needs to read all the science, not just one study. First you can't compare the Atlantic ocean and the Pacific. The lep salmonis lice in the Pacific is different from the leps we have in the Atlantic and second this group took some data, created a mathematical model to spit out the results they wanted and then printed a paper. A recent study in Europe used 9 years of monitoring data and showed that sea lice have - at best, minimal impact on wild fish mortality.

  • Tamara
    August 29, 2011 - 06:54

    This is why I avoid farmed salmon.

    • moe st. cool
      August 29, 2011 - 09:24

      @ TAMARA: why avoid farmed salmon because of sea lice? Did you read the article? Where does it say any of this can harm humans? Thats such a typical naive consumer reaction to this type of story Moe