A new study published February 8 in the Public Library of Science ONE, offers a connection between sea lice on Fraser River Sockeye and from salmon farms. While the interaction of wild fish, farmed fish and sea lice is not new knowledge - the industry agrees with the researchers' notes that more experimental work is required.
"Our farmers take very seriously the responsibility of managing sea lice on our fish to ensure they are not putting additional stress on wild salmon," said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. "Both sea lice and the challenges faced by BC's wild salmon are complicated, multi-layered issues and there is more work to be done."
The study itself notes that there are still significant unknowns: that the effect of sea lice infestation is not clear and that there is no explanation at this time for the notable differences in the kinds of louse found on the wild salmon.
It's an interesting addition to an extensive body of research that includes a study from December 2010, which showed that lice levels in the Broughton Archipelago had no relation to the number of wild salmon returns. Studies also show that once salmon have developed full scale systems (as Fraser River Sockeye have during their outmigration) they are resistant to damage from lice and that sea lice numbers can be higher away from farms than near them (see references on Question and Answer sheet).
"We think the genetics research here is interesting - and will help provide a fulsome view for people looking at the survival of Fraser River Sockeye," said Walling. "But we agree with what the authors of this report say: there are still questions here and more answers will only help make the environment and our industry healthier."
The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon-farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.
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