Salmon lice in the Pacific Ocean show evidence of evolved resistance to parasiticide treatment
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScientific Reports. 2022, 12 (1), . 10.1038/s41598-022-07464-1
Parasitic salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) threaten the economic and ecological sustainability of salmon farming, and their evolved resistance to treatment with emamectin benzoate (EMB) has been a major problem for salmon farming in the Atlantic Ocean. In contrast, the Pacific Ocean, where wild salmon are far more abundant, has not seen widespread evolution of EMB-resistant lice. Here, we use EMB bioassays and counts of lice on farms from the Broughton Archipelago, Canada—a core region of salmon farming in the Pacific—to show that EMB sensitivity has dramatically decreased since 2010, concurrent with marked decrease in the field efficacy of EMB treatments. Notably, these bioassay data were not made available through public reporting by industry or by the federal regulator, but rather through Indigenous-led agreements that created a legal obligation for salmon-farming companies to provide data to First Nations. Our results suggest that salmon lice in the Pacific Ocean have recently evolved substantial resistance to EMB, and that salmon-louse outbreaks on Pacific farms will therefore be more difficult to control in the coming years.