Scientific report says sea lice has spread to British Columbia’s most lucrative fish stock

ECHO BAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA – The latest scientific paper on sea lice reports that infestations have spread to juvenile pink, chum, and sockeye salmon as well as juvenile herring near Campbell River fish farms. The study was published online by the North American Journal of Fisheries Management.

The Campbell River area is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World” and accounts for a significant portion of the $233 million a year provincial sport fishing tourism revenue.

Alexandra Morton R.P.Bio. (Salmon Coast Field Station), Dr. Richard Routledge (Simon Fraser University) and Dr. Martin Krkosek (University of Alberta) examined 4,700 young wild salmon near and distant to fish farms in 2005 and 2006 throughout the Discovery Islands.

“We found four times as many wild juvenile salmon were infected with sea lice near fish farms than distant from the farms,” says Alexandra Morton. “Then, in 2006, when most of the farms were empty, the sea lice declined.”

“This is the same pattern we see in the Broughton Archipelago,” added Dr. Routledge, “Where there are farm fish the young wild salmon are infested with lice. Remove the farm fish and the sea lice problem disappears.”

The study looked at other variables, including salinity and temperature, but found that farm fish were the only significant factor contributing to the infestations.

The study was made possible through the dedication of several commercial fishermen who did the sampling.

The report concludes there is urgent need to implement policy that protects wild salmon from farm fish.  

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