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AEI
Aquaculture Environment Interactions

    AEI prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00348

    Sea lice prevention strategies affect cleaner fish delousing efficacy in commercial Atlantic salmon sea cages

    K. Gentry*, S. Bui, F. Oppedal, T. Dempster

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Over the last 2 decades, cleaner fishes have been employed to remove external sea lice parasites from Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in sea cages. Norway, Scotland, Ireland, and the Faroe Islands combined now use ~60 million cleaner fish per year. While small-scale experiments demonstrate the efficacy of cleaner fishes, industrial-scale sea cages have multiple structures and conditions that create different environments, which may impact cleaner fish efficacy and welfare. Here, in commercial sea cages, we investigated if 4 different anti-lice strategies impacted the delousing efficacy, physical condition and behaviour of cleaner fish (corkwing wrasse Symphodus melops). The strategies tested were: (1) cleaner fishes only; (2) cleaner fishes and functional feed; (3) cleaner fishes, functional feed, and deep lights and feeding; and (4) cleaner fishes, functional feed, deep lights and feeding, and lice skirts. Corkwing wrasse were sampled from 3 cage-level replicates of each anti-lice strategy 3 times over 2 mo. Lice levels on salmon were recorded every 3 to 4 wk. Only 11% of corkwing wrasse had salmon lice in their gut, with individual wrasse having up to 72 lice in their stomach. Wrasse in cages encircled by lice skirts consumed one ninth as many lice as those in other anti-lice treatments and had less overall impact on the number of lice per salmon. Fin, skin, mouth and eye condition, K factor, and observed cleaning behaviours of corkwing wrasse were similar across all anti-lice strategies. Our results demonstrate that different in-cage anti-lice strategies altered the magnitude of lice consumption in corkwing wrasse at this site and for this production period. Moreover, while a small proportion of corkwing wrasse appear to target lice as prey, most individual corkwing wrasse were ineffective biological control agents in a full-scale farm setting.