Seasonal occurrence of sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis on sea trout in two north Norwegian fjords
Seasonal occurrence of the parasitic copepod Lepeophtheirus salmonis(sea lice) was studied from March to December 2001 in two large north Norwegian sill fjords without fish farming activity, the Ranafjord and the Balsfjord. Anadromous brown trout Salmo trutta(sea trout) in both fjords had a low infestation rate during all sampling periods, but followed a seasonal pattern. During early and late winter (November to December and March to April) and spring (May to June), the prevalence varied from 0 to 25% and the abundance was <0·5 sea lice. Adults dominated (92%) during this period, particularly gravid females. In both fjords, the highest prevalence was during September (80–81%, all stages represented). In Ranafjord, the abundance and mean intensity during this month was 6·8 and 8·6 sea lice, respectively, while in Balsfjord it was 3·6 and 4·5 sea lice, respectively. Fish were captured at temperatures down to 1° C and at full strength sea water which is supposed to cause osmoregulatory problems for the fish. This observation has implications for the understanding of high‐latitude sea trout behaviour and can also make the fish more vulnerable to heavy sea lice infestation during this period. It is suggested that winter running sea trout help to maintain a self replicating local population of sea lice within such fjord systems where other possible hosts (e.g. farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar) are not present during a whole year cycle.