Simulated effects of increasing salmonid production on sea lice populations in Norway

  • Katharine Rose Dean
  • Magne Tommy Aldrin
  • Lars Qviller
  • Kari Marie Olli Helgesen
  • Peder Andreas Jansen


Norway produces more than one million tonnes of salmonids every year, almost exclusively in open-water net pens. In 2014, the Norwegian government announced plans to increase salmonid production. However, increasing the number of farmed salmonids can have negative effects on the marine environment that threaten the industry’s sustainability. In particular, production growth can lead to an increase in density-dependent diseases, including parasitic sea lice. The aim of this study was to simulate the effects of increased salmonid production on sea lice abundance using different scenarios for increasing the number of fish and for the management of sea lice. We used a previously developed, partly stage-structured model based on Norwegian production and environmental data to simulate the different scenarios. Our results show that increasing the marine farmed salmonid population at a national level by two or five times the current production leads to an increase in the sea lice abundance by 3.5% and 7.1%, respectively. We also found that by lowering the maximum allowable level of sea lice to an average of 0.049 adult females per fish, weekly treatments can be used to control sea lice population growth with a five times increase in production. However, this increases the number of farms treating per week by as much as 281.3%, which can lead to high costs and increased mortality among farmed salmonids. Overall, the results from our study shed light on the effects of increasing salmonid production in Norway with respect to the ongoing threat of sea lice infestations.