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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

    AEI prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00397

    Modeling salmon lice effects on sea trout population dynamics using an individual-based approach

    R. D. Hedger, O. H. Diserud, B. Finstad, A. J. Jensen, D. K. Hendrichsen, O. Ugedal, T. F. Næsje

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Salmon lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis infestation of sea trout Salmo trutta results in both additional marine mortality and behavioral changes which may contribute to sea trout population decline. For an effective management of activities that increase exposure to salmon lice, such as salmon aquaculture, it is necessary to have a full understanding of how salmon lice may affect sea trout populations. An individual-based model (IBTRUTTA) was therefore developed to investigate the potential effects of salmon lice infestation on sea trout population abundance and dynamics based on data from Halselva River and the Altafjord system in northern Norway. This model allowed investigation of the effect of lice-induced mortality and also the compensatory salmonid behavioral mechanisms of premature return to freshwater, either persistent for overwintering or transitory after which sea trout could go back to sea. It was found that, in the absence of compensatory mechanisms, even low rates of lice infestation could lead to marked declines in sea trout abundance. Compensatory behavioral mechanisms had the potential to reduce these declines, but persistent premature return resulted in reduced body mass of returning adults. The shape of the stock-recruitment relationship was also shown to strongly affect how lice-induced mortality impacted the population.