Forum Research Casts Doubt On Sea Lice Study


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
February 10, 2008

A preliminary report released yesterday by the B.C. Pacific Salmon Forum in Nanaimo, British Columbia, contradicts a recent study that predicted the collapse of wild pink salmon stocks in British Columbia.

In a study published in the Dec. 14 edition of the journal Science, Canadian researchers found that pink salmon north of Vancouver Island had shown harmful effects of parasitic infestation of sea lice brought on by the increased density of fish at salmon farms. The study used a computer model to analyze pink salmon runs in 64 rivers without exposure to salmon farms and seven rivers where young fish migrate past at least one salmon farm.

Martin Krkosek, a doctoral candidate at the Center for Mathematical Biology at the University of Alberta, was the lead author of the study, which was primarily financed by the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

However, in 2007, adult pink salmon returns in the mainland inlets of British Columbia's archipelago system were similar or slightly improved relative to the return of 2005. In context of the 2007 interim research results, the forum said it does not appear that the natural stocks of pink salmon in the area would be subject to mass extinctions within four generations, as predicted by Krkosek.

"It's apparent from our research that the ecosystem within the Broughton Archipelago is very intricate. The interaction between wild salmon, farmed salmon and other species is taking place in a region of a complex mix of currents, winds, and geography," said John Fraser, forum chairman, in a press release.

"Since it is clear we are dealing with dynamic ecosystems that includes many factors, not simply sea lice, the Forum will be funding a broad range of researchers to come together to develop an analytical framework that will incorporate all ecosystem factors in order to interpret the data that is emerging from this research program."

The BC Pacific Salmon Forum's 2007 research program included 15 research projects involving 30 scientists aimed at improving understanding of the Broughton Archipelago's ecosystem and the impact of lice on salmon, among other issues.

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