DAO 57:247-254 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/dao057247

Risk of inter-river transmission of Gyrodactylus salaris by migrating Atlantic salmon smolts, estimated by Monte Carlo simulation

H. R. Høgåsen, E. Brun*

Section of Epidemiology, National Veterinary Institute, PO Box 8156, Dep, 0033 Oslo, Norway

ABSTRACT: The possibility of Gyrodactylus salaris infection of wild North Atlantic salmon Salmo salar spreading to new rivers poses a major threat in Norway. This freshwater parasite can survive for some time in brackish water, and it has been suggested that smolts leaving infected rivers could transport vital parasites to new rivers. A Monte Carlo simulation model was used to estimate the risk that infected smolts would ascend a new river. Data from an infected watercourse in Norway, where the salmon population is maintained constant by cultivation, were used. The model included information on prevalence of infection, hydrographical conditions, survival of G. salaris in brackish water, fish population characteristics, and smolt behaviour during seaward migration. The annual risk was estimated for 3 neighbouring rivers situated at different distances from the index river. For the nearest river, which shares the same brackish water zone with the index river, the model estimated an annual risk of 31% that at least 1 infected smolt would ascend this river. The results of the simulation were highly sensitive to the water salinity along the migration route. For the other rivers, the annual risk was lower than 0.5%. Risk was positively correlated with the number of fish leaving the index river, indicating control of this number as a possible tool in risk management.

KEY WORDS: Gyrodactylus salaris · Atlantic salmon · Inter-river transmission · Monte Carlo simulation

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