Written by on 09/19/2017

Winchester, VA – In food and ecology news, the Independent reports that salmon farms are experiencing a plague which is threatening salmon farmers around the world: Sea lice. The little parasitic critters find hosts—in this case farmed salmon– and attach themselves to the hosts, feeding on them. The sea lice are rendering the salmon unmarketable and in many cases, are killing the salmon. These “sea lice” are actually tiny crustaceans which have taken over salmon farms in the United States, Canada, Scotland, Norway, and Chile, all of whom are major suppliers of farmed salmon. The lice each grow to the size of a pea, and lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime.  Farmers had treated their salmon farms for this problem back in 2009 by feeding the fish emamectin benzoate pesticide, but the sea lice became resistant to the pesticide and continued to spread. The worldwide supply of salmon decreased by 10% last year, and especially hard hit was Norway, which is the world’s largest salmon producer. It is estimated that there are hundreds of times more salmon in salmon farms than in the wild, and it is not unusual for farmed salmon to escape their pens and spread the sea lice to the wild salmon populations. Researchers are exploring one interesting method of battling the sea lice, and that is through farming salmon alongside mussels, which eat the larval sea lice. Other researchers are attempting to zap the lice with lasers to kill them. In New Brunswick, Cook engineer Joel Halse operates a $4 million vessel which sends the salmon through a winding series of tubes, like a long waterslide, and douses them with warm water to remove the lice. These sea lice are costing the farmed salmon industry $1billion  annually.

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