Modelling parasite impacts of aquaculture on wild fish: The case of the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) on out-migrating wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) smolt
For effective wild salmon (Salmo salar) conservation in areas where aquaculture of salmon is practiced it is necessary to identify where the key parasite, the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis), will have an impact on these wild salmon. A simple modelling structure is implemented in a sample system in Scotland for assessing interaction between wild salmon and salmon lice from salmon farms. The model is demonstrated for case studies of smolt sizes and migration routes through salmon lice concentration fields derived for average farm loads from 2018 to 2020. Lice modelling describes production and distribution of lice, infection rates on hosts and biological development of lice. The modelling framework allows explicit assessment of the relationships between lice production, lice concentration and impact on hosts as they grow and migrate. Lice distribution in the environment is determined using a kernel model, which summarises mixing in a complex hydrodynamic system. Smolt modelling describes their initial size, growth and migration pathways. This is illustrated for a set of parameter values applied to 10 cm, 12.5 cm and 15 cm salmon smolts. We found that salmon lice impact depends on initial size of host, smaller smolts will be more susceptible, while larger smolts are less impacted by a given number of lice encounters and migrate more rapidly. This modelling framework can be adapted to allow evaluation of threshold concentrations of lice in the water that should not be exceeded to avoid impacts on smolt populations.
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