Spatial patterns of sea lice infection among wild and captive salmon in western Canada
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- Rees, E.E., St-Hilaire, S., Jones, S.R.M. et al. Landscape Ecol (2015) 30: 989. doi:10.1007/s10980-015-0188-2
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Parasite transmission between captive and wild fish is mediated by spatial, abiotic, biotic, and management factors. More effective population management and conservation strategies can result from multivariable assessments of factors associated with spatial dynamics of parasite spillover.
Our study characterised spatial patterns of sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis,Caligus clemensi) infection on out-migrating chum (Oncorhynchus keta) and pink (O. gorbuscha) salmon in an area with Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) farming.
A multivariable statistical model for sea louse parasitism of out-migrating chum and pink salmon was developed from 166,316 wild salmon sampled in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, Canada from 2003 to 2012. We assessed for factors hypothesized to influence sea lice infection levels, at the non-motile life stage, including spatial scales of infection sources.
Fish length, sampling year and method were strong explanatory factors. Infection was greatest in higher salinity water. Farmed and wild juvenile salmon infection levels were correlated, on average, within 30 km. Except for 2004, sea lice infection on farms were typically well below the regulatory level (3 motiles per fish). Average intensity of non-motile infections observed on the wild fish were 6.36 (SD = 9.98) in 2004 compared to 1.66 (SD = 1.25) for the other years.
Accuracy of future model estimates will benefit by including hydrodynamic data accounting for anisotropic spread of sea lice from sources. Multivariable statistical modelling over long time series data strengthens understanding of factors impacting wild juvenile salmon infection levels and informs spatial patterns of aquatic epidemiology.