Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 129–137 | Cite as

Salmon lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, infestation as a causal agent of premature return to rivers and estuaries by sea trout, Salmo trutta, juveniles

  • Kjersti Birkeland
  • Per J. Jakobsen


A field experiment conducted in the River Lønningdalselven in spring 1992 supports the hypothesis that salmon lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, infestations may cause premature return of sea trout, Salmo trutta, juveniles, either to estuaries or to rivers. When lice infested (exposed) and uninfested (control) sea trout juveniles (post smolts) were released simultaneously into the sea, exposed fish returned to the estuarine area earlier compared with controls. Within the following two days, exposed sea trout migrated further into freshwater. At that time they were infested with a median of 62.5 lice, dominated by chalimus larvae and late juveniles. Exposed sea trout suffered from an osmoregulatory failure in sea water and this is considered one reason for infested fish returning to brackish water. While only a few control fish returned to the estuary on the day of release, some more returned to freshwater the following four days. During this time they had become heavily infested with copepodids, and carried a median of 150.0 lice. It is suggested that physiological stress and high infection pressure in the sea results in sea trout juveniles returning to estuaries and freshwater.

salmonids epizootic field-experiment salmon louse migration mortality 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kjersti Birkeland
    • 1
  • Per J. Jakobsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal Ecology, Institute of ZoologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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