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Parasitic Sea Lice Threaten Salmon Farming

 By Theodora Filis

Salmon farmers around the world consider sea lice to be the most dangerous threat to their industry.

Salmon farms and their farmers are being disrupted around the world because of sea lice attaching themselves to, and feeding on, the #Salmon. This is causing many salmon to die or making them unsuitable for people to consume.

Price of salmon going up
Salmon prices are going up as much as fifty-percent - wholesale - from last year. That means as consumers we will see higher prices for salmon stakes, fillets, and the lox on our bagels.

Vice President of Cooke Aquaculture, Jake Elliott, from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada, said that the salmon #Farmers need to be quicker and work faster than the lice.

New and established ways are being used
Both new and established technology will be needed in order to defeat the lice, experts say.

Older tools like pesticides and more recent practices like breeding for genetic resistance need to be tried. Some of the more recent solutions that are either in use now, or in the developmental stages include such things as zapping the lice with underwater lasers and trying to remove the lice by bathing the salmon in warm water.

Salmon farmers say sea lice is considered one of the biggest and most dangerous threat the industry faces - worldwide. In 2015 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported farmed salmon to be worth close to twelve billion U.S. dollars.

A scientist from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Shawn Robinson, said the only hope of controlling the infestation of these parasitic sea lice is to find new ways to control the spread. Lice are present in the wild, too, Robinson said, but they apparently live longer and stronger in tightly packed ocean pens like fish farms.

He went on to say that right now, there are just not enough tools for fish farmers to effectively deal with the sea lice.

Sea lice lay thousands of eggs
Sea lice grow to roughly the size of a pea and lay upwards of a thousand eggs in their very brief lifetime. Wild salmon growing in the Atlantic ocean have had to deal with sea lice for centuries, and fish farmers have been able to control these parasites in aquaculture environments for many years.

However, in 1994 farmers in Canada noticed they had a lice problem, said the executive director of research and environment with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Jonathan Carr.

Carr said that by feeding salmon with a pesticide that contains the active ingredient - emamectin benzoate - they were able to control the lice infestation. But in 2009 the lice began to reappear and were no longer killed by the pesticide. Without the help of pesticides, the parasitic sea lice have been laying thousands of eggs each, around the world, for past 16 years.

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