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Reviewing our approach to sea lice

August 2, 2018

By Ron Tardiff, Science and Standards Intern

In June, I joined the ASC as a Science and Standards Intern conducting research on best (but also worst) practices in farm siting globally as well as sea lice management in the salmon industry. I have just completed the first year of my Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Aquaculture, Environment, and Society (ACES). Through this course, I study aquaculture and its impact on the world at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the University of Crete, and the University of Nantes.

Despite having a background in marine ecology with specific interest in fisheries management and international ocean policy, I have found myself right at home studying and researching aquaculture. One of my favourite journal articles (I’m sure we all have one) is, “Aquaculture and the Future: Why Fisheries Economists Should Care” by Prof. James L Anderson in the journal Marine Resource Economics (2002). In this, Dr. Anderson argues that fisheries and aquaculture are, in fact, different ends of the same spectrum of activity and that much of our fisheries activities will continue moving towards the aquaculture end of the spectrum. It’s with this logic that I find working at the nexus of fisheries and aquaculture an exciting opportunity. 

As part of my internship with ASC, I am reviewing the legislation and regulations employed by salmon producing countries to manage sea lice infestations. Recently, the challenge sea lice poses to salmon farming has received media attention on a global scale. Sea lice may create a problem in terms of fish welfare and mortality, particularly for juveniles migrating to sea (Torrissen et al. 2013). The salmon industry in Norway, Chile, Canada, the Faroe Islands, Scotland, and Ireland find themselves grappling with this problem. Most of these countries have recently increased the stringency of their sea lice monitoring and control protocols. It is important to understand that the potential impacts of sea lice vary widely across the world’s salmon farming countries. Different species of sea lice, the presence or absence of wild salmonids, and climatic conditions mean that a single sea lice control strategy for all salmon producers is unreasonable. One of the challenges faced by ASC, policy makers, and producers is establishing the right maximum sea lice levels and appropriate control measures for each production area. 

ASC’s Salmon Standard already includes above-average requirements for sea lice monitoring, inter-farm cooperation, and treatment protocols. The aim of my research is to understand the new efforts countries and industry are taking to prevent and manage sea lice outbreaks in order to inform any future action taken by ASC relating to sea lice. ASC is keenly interested in the following questions: 

  1. Are there trigger limits set when treatments need to commence? If so, what are these numbers and to what do they apply – female sea lice, motile lice, etc – and does the treatment need to be effective so that numbers drop again below the trigger limit?
  2. On what science is a present trigger limit and/or absolute maximum set?
  3. Is a distinction made between trigger limits and/or maximum limits due to migration of wild salmons?
  4. In each country, has the current legislation changed from the previous legislation/regulation? When?
  5. What are the regulatory regimes applied in each country? 
  6. What is the monitoring regime (number and frequency of samples) employed? 
  7. Are there public records available?

Once the answers to these questions are in hand, ASC will evaluate its current sea lice requirements to ensure these continue to set the gold standard of sea lice management. I’ll be keeping you informed of my progress with further blogs – watch this space!

Confidental Infomation