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Concept: Sea louse


The impact of salmon lice on the survival of migrating Atlantic salmon smolts was studied by comparing the adult returns of sea-ranched smolts treated for sea lice using emamectin benzoate or substance EX with untreated control groups in the River Dale in western Norway. A total of 143 500 smolts were released in 35 release groups in freshwater from 1997 to 2009 and in the fjord system from 2007 to 2009. The adult recaptures declined gradually with release year and reached minimum levels in 2007. This development corresponded with poor marine growth and increased age at maturity of ranched salmon and in three monitored salmon populations and indicated unfavourable conditions in the Norwegian Sea. The recapture rate of treated smolts was significantly higher than the controls in three of the releases performed: the only release in 1997, one of three in 2002 and the only group released in sea water in 2007. The effect of treating the smolts against salmon lice was smaller than the variability in return rates between release groups, and much smaller that variability between release years, but its overall contribution was still significant (P < 0.05) and equivalent to an odds ratio of the probability of being recaptured of 1.17 in favour of the treated smolts. Control fish also tended to be smaller as grilse (P = 0.057), possibly due to a sublethal effect of salmon lice.

Concepts: Parasites, Salmon, Norway, Atlantic salmon, Salmo, Tasmania, Sea louse, Salmon louse


Salmon lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, are naturally occurring parasites of salmon in sea water. Intensive salmon farming provides better conditions for parasite growth and transmission compared with natural conditions, creating problems for both the salmon farming industry and, under certain conditions, wild salmonids. Salmon lice originating from farms negatively impact wild stocks of salmonids, although the extent of the impact is a matter of debate. Estimates from Ireland and Norway indicate an odds ratio of 1.1:1-1.2:1 for sea lice treated Atlantic salmon smolt to survive sea migration compared to untreated smolts. This is considered to have a moderate population regulatory effect. The development of resistance against drugs most commonly used to treat salmon lice is a serious concern for both wild and farmed fish. Several large initiatives have been taken to encourage the development of new strategies, such as vaccines and novel drugs, for the treatment or removal of salmon lice from farmed fish. The newly sequenced salmon louse genome will be an important tool in this work. The use of cleaner fish has emerged as a robust method for controlling salmon lice, and aquaculture production of wrasse is important towards this aim. Salmon lice have large economic consequences for the salmon industry, both as direct costs for the prevention and treatment, but also indirectly through negative public opinion.

Concepts: Parasites, Fish, Salmon, Aquaculture, Fish farming, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Salmon aquaculture in Scotland continues to increase; however, one of the potential limitations to its further sustainable growth is the ectoparasitic sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. The industry in Scotland undertakes coordinated management procedures to control the levels of sea lice on farms in designated production areas. We developed a biophysical sea lice dispersal model for Loch Linnhe, one of the largest fjords on the west coast of Scotland, to provide further information to help establish more effective farm management areas. We successfully extend modelling principles previously applied to a small Scottish fjordic system. Modelling scenarios demonstrate heterogeneity in the distribution of sea lice within the system and simulations, suggesting that lice could be transmitted up to 30 km. The scenarios are assessed by comparing model predictions against lice sampled by both planktonic trawls and settlement on sentinel caged fish. The model predicts the ranked abundance of both planktonic and settled lice assuming that the lice input to the system is relative to host biomass. Data collection is ongoing for undertaking and assessing additional scenarios.

Concepts: Crustacean, Salmon, Aquaculture, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Growth in salmon aquaculture over the past two decades has raised concerns regarding the potential impacts of the industry on neighboring ecosystems and wild fish productivity. Despite limited evidence, sea lice have been identified as a major cause for the decline in some wild Pacific salmon populations on the west coast of Canada. We used sea lice count and management data from farmed and wild salmon, collected over 10 years (2007-2016) in the Muchalat Inlet region of Canada, to evaluate the association between sea lice recorded on salmon farms with the infestation levels on wild out-migrating Chum salmon. Our analyses indicated a significant positive association between the sea lice abundance on farms and the likelihood that wild fish would be infested. However, increased abundance of lice on farms was not significantly associated with the levels of infestation observed on the wild salmon. Our results suggest that Atlantic salmon farms may be an important source for the introduction of sea lice to wild Pacific salmon populations, but that the absence of a dose response relationship indicates that any estimate of farm impact requires more careful evaluation of causal inference than is typically seen in the extant scientific literature.

Concepts: Fish, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Pacific Ocean, Kamchatka Peninsula, Aquaculture, Chum salmon, Sea louse


The discovery of many fragments of viral genomes integrated in the genome of their eukaryotic host (endogenous viral elements; EVEs) has recently opened new avenues to further our understanding of viral evolution and of host-virus interactions. Here, we report the results of a comprehensive screen for EVEs in crustaceans. Following up on the recent discovery of EVEs in the terrestrial isopod, Armadillidium vulgare, we scanned the genomes of six crustacean species: a terrestrial isopod (Armadillidium nasatum), two water fleas (Daphnia pulex and D. pulicaria), two copepods (the salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Eurytemora affinis), and a freshwater amphipod (Hyalella azteca).

Concepts: Virus, Species, Insect, Crustacean, Sea louse, Malacostraca, Woodlouse, Krill


Caligid sea lice represent a significant threat to salmonid aquaculture worldwide. Population genetic analyses have consistently shown minimal population genetic structure in North Atlantic Lepeophtheirus salmonis, frustrating efforts to track louse populations and improve targeted control measures. The aim of this study was to test the power of reduced representation library sequencing (IIb-RAD sequencing) coupled with random forest machine learning algorithms to define markers for fine-scale discrimination of louse populations. We identified 1286 robustly supported SNPs among four L. salmonis populations from Ireland, Scotland and Northern Norway. Only weak global structure was observed based on the full SNP dataset. The application of a random forest machine-learning algorithm identified 98 discriminatory SNPs that dramatically improved population assignment, increased global genetic structure and resulted in significant genetic population differentiation. A large proportion of SNPs found to be under directional selection were also identified to be highly discriminatory. Our data suggest that it is possible to discriminate between nearby L. salmonis populations given suitable marker selection approaches, and that such differences might have an adaptive basis. We discuss these data in light of sea lice adaption to anthropogenic and environmental pressures as well as novel approaches to track and predict sea louse dispersal.

Concepts: DNA, Algorithm, Salmon, Machine learning, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Sea lice threaten the welfare of farmed Atlantic salmon and the sustainability of fish farming across the world. Chemical treatments are the major method of control but drug resistance means that alternatives are urgently needed. Selective breeding can be a cheap and effective alternative. Here, we combine experimental trials and diagnostics to provide a practical protocol for quantifying resistance to sea lice. We then combined quantitative genetics with epidemiological modelling to make the first prediction of the response to selection, quantified in terms of reduced need for chemical treatments. We infected over 1400 young fish with Lepeophtheirus salmonis, the most important species in the Northern Hemisphere. Mechanisms of resistance were expressed early in infection. Consequently, the number of lice per fish and the ranking of families were very similar at 7 and 17 days post infection, providing a stable window for assessing susceptibility to infection. The heritability of lice numbers within this time window was moderately high at 0.3, confirming that selective breeding is viable. We combined an epidemiological model of sea lice infection and control on a salmon farm with genetic variation in susceptibility among individuals. We simulated 10 generations of selective breeding and examined the frequency of treatments needed to control infection. Our model predicted that substantially fewer chemical treatments are needed to control lice outbreaks in selected populations and chemical treatment could be unnecessary after 10 generations of selection. Selective breeding for sea lice resistance should reduce the impact of sea lice on fish health and thus substantially improve the sustainability of Atlantic salmon production.

Concepts: Natural selection, Salmon, Pacific Ocean, Artificial selection, Aquaculture, Atlantic salmon, Sea louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Sea lice infestation as a source of marine mortality of outwardly migrating Atlantic salmon smolts has been investigated by treating groups of ranched salmon, prior to release, with a prophylactic sea lice treatment conferring protection from sea lice infestation. A number of studies have been carried out in Ireland using both established ranched populations and groups of hatchery reared fish imprinted for 5-8 weeks in the sites of experimental releases. In this study, data on 352 142 migrating salmon from twenty-eight releases, at eight locations along Ireland’s South and West coasts covering a 9-year period (2001 to 2009) are reviewed. Both published and new data are presented including a previously unpublished time series. The results of a meta-analysis of the combined data suggest that while sea lice-induced mortality on outwardly migrating smolts can be significant, it is a minor and irregular component of marine mortality in the stocks studied and is unlikely to be a significant factor influencing conservation status of salmon stocks.

Concepts: Salmon, Cultural studies, Atlantic salmon, Salmo, Marine debris, Tasmania, Sea louse, Irish Sea


Parasitic infections by the salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer), cause huge economic damage in salmon farming in the northern hemisphere, with combined treatment costs and production losses in 2014 having been estimated at US$ 350 million for Norway (annual production 1.25 million tonnes). The control of L. salmonis relies significantly on medicinal treatments, supplemented by non-pharmacological approaches. However, efficacy losses have been reported for several delousing agents, including the pyrethroid deltamethrin. The aim of the present study was to analyse the genetic basis of deltamethrin resistance in L. salmonis. Deltamethrin median effective concentrations (EC50) were 0.28 μg L-1 in the drug susceptible L. salmonis strain IoA-00 and 40.1 μg L-1 in the pyrethroid resistant strain IoA-02. IoA-00 and IoA-02 were crossed to produce families spanning one parental and three filial generations (P0, F1-F3). In three families derived from P0 crosses between an IoA-00 sire and an IoA-02 dam, 98.8% of F2 parasites (n = 173) were resistant, i.e. remained unaffected after exposure to 2.0 μg L-1 deltamethrin. F3 parasites from these crosses showed a deltamethrin EC50 of 9.66 μg L-1. In two families of the inverse orientation at P0 (IoA-02 sire x IoA-00 dam), 16.7% of F2 parasites were resistant (n = 84), while the deltamethrin EC50 in F3 animals was 0.26 μg L-1. The results revealed a predominantly maternal inheritance of deltamethrin resistance. The 15,947-nt mitochondrial genome was sequenced and compared among six unrelated L. salmonis strains and parasites sampled from wild salmon in 2010. IoA-02 and three further deltamethrin resistant strains, established from isolates originating from different regions of Scotland, showed almost identical mitochondrial haplotypes. In contrast, the mitochondrial genome was variable among susceptible strains and L. salmonis from wild hosts. Deltamethrin caused toxicity and depletion of whole body ATP levels in IoA-00 but not IoA-02 parasites. The maternal inheritance of deltamethrin resistance and its association with mitochondrial haplotypes suggests that pyrethroid toxicity in L. salmonis may involve molecular targets encoded by mitochondrial genes.

Concepts: Genetics, Parasites, Mitochondrion, Mitochondrial DNA, Antibiotic resistance, Salmon, Sea louse, Salmon louse


A major challenge for Atlantic salmon farming in the northern hemisphere is infestation by the sea louse parasite Lepeophtheirus salmonis. The most frequent method of controlling these sea louse infestations is through the use of chemical treatments. However, most major salmon farming areas have observed resistance to common chemotherapeutants. In terrestrial environments, many strategies employed to manage the evolution of resistance involve the use of refugia, where a portion of the population is left untreated to maintain susceptibility. While refugia have not been deliberately used in Atlantic salmon farming, wild salmon populations that migrate close to salmon farms may act as natural refugia. In this paper we describe an agent-based model that explores the influence of different sizes of wild salmon populations on resistance evolution in sea lice on a salmon farm. Using the model, we demonstrate that wild salmon populations can act as refugia that limit the evolution of resistance in the sea louse populations. Additionally, we demonstrate that an increase in the size of the population of wild salmon results in an increased effect in slowing the evolution of resistance. We explore the effect of a population fitness cost associated with resistance, finding that in some cases it substantially reduces the speed of evolution to chemical treatments.

Concepts: Salmon, Pacific Ocean, Farm, Aquaculture, Fish farming, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon