Effects of laboratory salmon louse infection on mortality, growth, and sexual maturation in Atlantic salmon
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionICES Journal of Marine Science. 2022, 79 (5), 1530-1538. 10.1093/icesjms/fsac078
Elevated salmon louse infection pressure generated by salmon farming represents a major threat for wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). This study explored the effect of salmon lice on mortality, and body and gonad growth in F1 wild Atlantic salmon. Mature males (jacks) and immature fish were either infected with two different louse infection intensities (LIIs, 0.08 or 0.35 lice g−1) or kept as uninfected controls. Fish maturation was thereafter environmentally stimulated in seawater, followed by transfer to freshwater for 38 d to simulate river ascendance. No females matured, while 99% of the initially immature males started puberty. Jacks had high, and immature and maturing fish low, seawater mortality, independent of lice. The parasites had an LII-dependent negative effect on growth in length, weight, and condition factor in seawater. In freshwater, after the lice had detached, fish that were previously infected in seawater had reduced growth in length but not weight when compared to the uninfected control. The parasites did not affect relative gonad size in any fish phenotypes. The present results show that Atlantic salmon has a complex, and unexplored, regulation of growth when recovering from lice infection under laboratory settings. Further, the results suggest that possible negative effects of salmon louse on reproductive success in Atlantic salmon is most likely governed by the reduced body size and condition. However, further work on possible effects of salmon louse on semen quality is encouraged.