Evaluation of water salinity effects on the sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis found on farmed Atlantic salmon in Muchalat Inlet, British Columbia, Canada

Arriagada, G. and Vanderstichel, R. and Stryhn, H. and Milligan, B. and Revie, C. W. (2016) Evaluation of water salinity effects on the sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis found on farmed Atlantic salmon in Muchalat Inlet, British Columbia, Canada. Aquaculture, 464. pp. 554-563. ISSN 0044-8486

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    Abstract

    The sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis is a major ectoparasite of both farmed and wild salmonids that causes substantial economic losses to the salmon industry worldwide. However, in British Columbia (BC) sea lice do not typically represent a significant health threat to farmed salmon. Sea lice patterns on Atlantic salmon farms in BC are not fully understood, but it is believed they are highly influenced by sea water salinity levels, which vary dramatically over the year. The objective of this investigation was to evaluate the effects of changes in water salinity on mobile L. salmonis found in farmed salmonids in the Muchalat Inlet, BC, while controlling for potential confounding factors. Using daily farm-based salinity measurements over a 13-year period, we built different salinity metrics to summarize salinity drops within specific periods of time prior to sea lice sampling events. Our results suggest that reduced salinity negatively impacted mobile sea lice in three different ways: first, a direct effect on mobile lice, lasting no more than one day; second, an effect mediated by detrimental impacts on pre-mobile lice stages; and third, an effect possibly associated with reduced fecundity of parents of that lice cohort. These findings confirm the important role of salinity on sea lice population dynamics in BC, and contribute new knowledge which is useful in understanding sea lice patterns and determinants in this region. Relevance statement We provided evidence that salinity can naturally control sea lice in British Columbia.