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Salmon health could depend upon timing of lice treatment

Nov 16 2012

Saving B.C.'s troubled wild salmon stocks while improving the health of farmed Atlantic salmon raised along the B.C. coast may be a simple matter of timing.

A University of Alberta-led research team had discovered that by changing the timing of sea lice treatments, both captive and wild salmon can be spared from devastated sea lice infestations.

Researchers targeted fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago - the islet-choked passage between the mainland and the northern tip of Vancouver Island - and found salmon farmers in the area have gradually shifted the timing of anti-parasite treatments to the fall and winter months.

The result is healthier farmed salmon and fewer sea lice in coastal waters as juvenile pink salmon migrate past farmed salmon pens each spring.

According to researchers, mortality from sea lice for juvenile pink salmon had fallen to less than four per cent by 2009, down from an estimated 90 per cent mortality rate in the early 2000s.

The research is published in the journal Ecological Applications, by Stephanie Peacock and supervisor Mark Lewis, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Otago, New Zealand and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

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