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Does increased abundance of sea lice influence survival of wild Atlantic salmon post-smolt?

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A synthesis of results from two projects was assessed to analyse possible influence of sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis on marine Atlantic salmon Salmo salar survival. During the years 1992–2004, trawling for wild migrating post-smolts was performed in Trondheimsfjord, a fjord in which no Atlantic salmon aquaculture activity is permitted. Prevalence and intensity of sea lice infections on migrating wild post-smolts differed between years. A correlation analysis between 1 sea-winter (SW) Atlantic salmon catch statistics from the River Orkla (a Trondheimsfjord river) and sea lice infections on the migrating smolts in the Trondheimsfjord was not significant. Up to 2% reduction in adult returns due to sea-lice infection was expected. In addition, experimental releases from 1996 to 1998 with individually tagged groups of hatchery-reared Atlantic salmon smolts given protection against sea-lice infection was performed. Higher recaptures of adult Atlantic salmon from 1998 treated smolts compared to the control group may correspond to high abundance of sea lice found on the wild smolt, and may indicate influence on post-smolt mortality. These studies indicate that post-smolt mortality in Trondheimsfjord is marginally influenced by sea lice infection; however, the methods for assessing wild smolt mortality might be insufficient. Higher infections of sea lice farther out in the fjord may indicate more loss in Atlantic salmon returns in some years.
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Keywords: post-smolt mortality; salmon aquaculture; salmon escapees; sea lice protection

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Tungasletta 2, N-7485 Trondheim, Norway 2: Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), Sørlandsavdelingen, Televeien 3, N-4879 Grimstad, Norway 3: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Museum of Natural History and Archeology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway 4: Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, Breivika, N-9291 Tromsø, Norway

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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