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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 8:597-610 (2016)  -  DOI:

Aquaculture and environmental drivers of salmon lice infestation and body condition in sea trout

Samuel Shephard1, Craig MacIntyre2, Patrick Gargan1,*

1Inland Fisheries Ireland, 3044 Lake Drive, CityWest Business Campus, Dublin 24 Y265, Ireland
2Argyll Fisheries Trust, Cherry Park, Inveraray PA32 8XE, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Infestation of sea trout Salmo trutta L. by salmon lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis is associated with increased mortality risk and possible sub-lethal effects. Separating anthropogenic causes of infestation from background ecological variability has proved difficult. A unique 25 yr dataset was collated comprising lice counts from >20000 sea trout sampled from 94 separate river and lake systems in Ireland and Scotland at varying distances from marine salmon farms. Statistical models were developed to explore the potential effects of distance to a salmon farm, rainfall and ambient temperature on sea trout lice infestation and body condition (weight at length). These models indicated that sea trout captured closer to salmon farms had significantly higher levels of lice infestation, and that this effect was exacerbated in warmer years. Sea trout sampled closer to salmon farms also had significantly reduced weight at length (impaired condition), with the strongest impact in dry years. The study dataset covers a broad geographic area over multiple years, and accounts for variability in temperature and rainfall. Our results imply a rather general impact of salmon farming on lice infestation and body condition of sea trout. This finding has implications for current lice control management strategies, coastal zone planning, recovery of sea trout stocks in aquaculture areas and the scale of aquaculture-free zones.

KEY WORDS: Salmon farming · Sea lice · Lepeophtheirus salmonis · Fish parasites · Salmo trutta · Marine mortality

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Cite this article as: Shephard S, MacIntyre C, Gargan P (2016) Aquaculture and environmental drivers of salmon lice infestation and body condition in sea trout. Aquacult Environ Interact 8:597-610.

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