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Speaking at the International Sea Lice Seminar at AquaNor, Pamela Parker, Executive Director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association gave an update on the sea lice situation in Canada. Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor reports.

Ms Parker began her presentation highlighting that there are huge regional differences in how fish is produced in the different regions across Canada. There are significant differences between the East and West coast.

Currently SLICE is the only product approved for use in Canada. "For Canadian salmon producers, this isn't good enough," said Ms Parker. "Whilst SLICE is still effective, in the long run we want more options available for producers."

With public interest in fish farming increasing, public attention to farm operations is stronger than ever. With this in mind each province releases quarterly reports on sea lice management, two of the largest salmon companies also report monthly counts and publish the data online.

There have been extensive studies on the effects of sea lice on wild fish returns, to date there is no evidence that farm lice levels impact wild salmon returns, said Ms Parker.

Non-governmental organisations are now shifting there focus and speculating more on pathogens than parasites.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the centre for extensive research and development in alternative sea lice treatment options in Canada. Researchers there are developing an Integrated Pest Management Plan. Since 2009, experiments have been ongoing with Alpamax, Salmosan, and Interox paramove 50.

In 2010, lice populations rose significantly in bay management area 1, which speculators put down to a lack of products available. The problem was also exaggerated due to late product approvals, which meant that by the time fish were treated it was July, when water temperatures are higher. On top of this, July saw record high water temperatures (over 14 degrees), all of which reduced the efficacy of the products.

This was only an issue in bay management area 1, stressed Ms Parker. Elsewhere effective sea lice management was possible.

So far this year lice populations are under control. Normal water temperatures, as well as availability of the right tools at the right time has helped.

Despite this the industry is still looking for regulatory support for the IPMP, including access to a variety of products.

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia

In Newfoundland, it has been found that there is some tolerance to SLICE. Trials are underway with Salmosan and Interox paramove 50. Sea lice populations in this area are well under control.

No sea lice treatment has been required in Nova Scotia for over six years, although management controls are still in place.

Both provinces are supporting regional applications for product approvals, as currently all licences are provisional. They are allocated for a year, and must be re-applied on a yearly basis.

Maine, USA

Cobscook Bay shares waters with New Brunswick, which makes the management of sea lice on both sides of the border very important, said Ms Palmer.

In 2010, Maine had access to SLICE, Excis and Interox paramove 50. Excis is not available in 2011, as the US investigational new animal drug programme was discontinued.

A change in US regulations earlier this year allowed Canadian owned well boats to enter US waters to treat fish.

Integrated Pest Management

New Brunswick is wanting to gain support from a range of federal and provincial regulators, industry and others, to implement an IPMP framework. It is hoped that the framework will be signed off in September 2011, and then passed to other provinces to be used as a template.

Ms Palmer said that full implementation of the IPMP is still facing significant challenges including access to a variety of products required, the ability to use the products in the most effective manner and research funding and collaboration.

Collaborative research

In 2009, the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association began to collaborate research in 2009, by bringing the industry together. It now facilitates multi-disciplinary research agendas.

Research plans have focused on four key topic areas, including regulatory research, environmental dynamics, green technology and novel treatments and model development.

A database is being set up for lice treatment controls. This will help researchers and producers evaluate treatment plans and measure their efficacy. All this information will be made public.

A pilot project launched in 2010 saw a number of wellboats purchased and rented, to deliver sea lice treatments. The study is looking at whether wellboat use can optimise sea lice bath treatments.

Concluding Ms Palmer said that the next step forward for the industry in the management of sea lice would be completion of the integrated pest management plans throughout all provinces.

September 2011

the Fish Site Editor

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