Predicting transmission of sea lice between aquaculture sites in the East Coast of Canada

Principal Investigator: Raphael Vanderstichel
Co-Investigators: Fred Page, Erin Rees, Larry Hammell, Crawford Revie & Sophie St-Hilaire

Infectious diseases of marine finfish can have a significant economic impact on the global aquaculture industry. Effective control measures against transmission of pathogens between marine farms are essential to reducing losses of fish from infectious diseases, production costs, and environmental pollution from therapeutic treatments. Farm-to-farm spread of pathogens in Atlantic salmon aquaculture has been described at different distances in several countries, including Canada. However, we currently lack the understanding of the impact of coastal water movements (hydrology) on the transmission of pathogens. Increasing our understanding of transmission patterns in coastal waters will improve existing aquaculture management areas to allow for more effective coordinated treatment strategies in controlling for specific pathogens.

This project will incorporate both hydrological information and ongoing fish disease surveillance data to develop and validate statistical models for disease transmission patterns of sea lice in coastal waters on the east coast of Canada. Our work will help the industry establish a protocol for effective bay-management strategies, including the efficient use of therapeutic agents, reducing the amounts necessary to control sea lice infection and, thus, minimizing the effect on the environment while reducing production costs.

We hypothesize that hydrodynamic variation in space and time is a key driver of farm-level infections and transmission patterns. To explore this hypothesis we will focus on a parasite (sea louse) that continues to cause problems in the salmon aquaculture industry in southwestern New Brunswick.

The objective of this study is to incorporate hydrological data into a statistical disease model to better predict farm-level infections and transmission patterns of sea lice on the east coast of Canada.