BC Pacific Salmon Forum

BC Pacific Salmon Forum

February 27, 2008 16:32 ET

BC Pacific Salmon Forum: Final Year of $3 Million Research Program to Address Key Knowledge Gaps and Create Basis for Ecosystem Based Management of Coastal Salmon

NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 27, 2008) - The BC Pacific Salmon Forum today released plans for the final year of its two year research program in the Broughton Archipelago to address further knowledge gaps and inform new approaches to managing coastal wild and farmed salmon. Total cost of the program is expected to be near $3 million with research building collaboration between researchers and a range of funding partners.

Three broad categories of research identified in 2007 will be followed in 2008: (1) Quantification of fish and sea lice dynamics during the juvenile salmon out-migration period (2) Impacts of lice on individual juvenile salmon and (3) Population dynamics of pink and chum salmon.

Says Forum Research Director Dr. Jon O'Riordan, "The first two years of Forum research showed that if we want to ensure the sustainability of wild salmon where salmon farming occurs we need a better understanding of the complex workings of coastal ecosystems. Our goal this year is to address some of the still unanswered key research questions that have emerged from our research to date and build more sophisticated ecosystem based models that will support improved approaches to sustainable salmon management."

Studies within category one includes oceanographic research to predict circulation patterns of near surface waters occupied by planktonic sea lice larvae and their hosts. This research will be coupled with a larval sea lice behaviour and development model to estimate the spatial and temporal distribution of the infective copepodid stage of this parasite. Numerical models of surface water movements together with observations of circulation, water properties, winds and freshwater runoff will aid in interpretation of juvenile wild salmon monitoring data and observations of sea lice abundance in the water column. Other research will analyze the effects of SLICE® applications on reducing sea lice intensities on salmon farms and evaluate whether such reductions affect sea lice infections of wild juvenile pink and chum salmon in the vicinity of the fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago. This work will allow models used to estimate both the magnitude and spatial extent of transmission to be updated thereby improving our understanding of sea lice population dynamics over the course of the juvenile salmon migration period and providing useful information about the sources of lice that infect out-migrating wild populations of juvenile salmon. Other work will examine distributions of planktonic sea lice larvae and investigate the mechanisms of infection. A new research project which aims to identify sources and processes of lice infestations of farmed salmon over the winter months has been underway since November.

The Forum has allocated funds to establish a centre for the identification of sea lice at the DFO Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. The centre will provide a common analytical resource for researchers requiring sea lice identification.

A second category of studies will determine the levels at which individual juvenile salmon survival is compromised by increased lice loads. These studies will be carried out using both laboratory and, new this year, field studies, which will enable comparisons between laboratory and field data. Sampling data collected during 2008 will be combined with data collected in 2007 to provide an overview of the health status of out-migrating wild juveniles to determine the extent of association between measured health parameters and naturally occurring sea lice levels observed in the region.

A third group of studies in the Research Program will provide another year of sampling to characterize the dynamics of natural populations of pink and chum salmon in the Broughton. This information will be evaluated against similar data from the nearby Bella Bella region to compare smolt numbers and escapement in rivers located in an aquaculture free area against those in the Broughton. This work will contribute to our overall understanding of both fresh and marine survival of some key Mainland Inlets systems for pink salmon.

Other new research for which the Forum has earmarked funding includes the study of the biological effects of SLICE®, (emamectin benzoate), a widely used anti-parasitic agent used on salmon farms to control sea lice.

"Because we are dealing with dynamic and complex ecosystems that include many factors, not simply sea lice," said John Fraser, Forum Chair, "the Forum will also bring together a broad range of researchers to develop a more complete analytical framework or model to incorporate the findings and emerging data of all investigators currently working in the region. The Forum believes this should result in a more robust modeling approach and provide a foundation for ecosystem based management in the Broughton Archipelago. This framework will also provide a basis for the incorporation of the data emerging from all of the Forum-funded research since 2006."

A complete overview of the 2008 Broughton Research Program can be found at:

Contact Information

  • BC Pacific Salmon Forum
    Hon. John Fraser
    (250) 755-3036
    BC Pacific Salmon Forum
    Dr. Jon O'Riordan
    Research Director
    (250) 755-3036
    Website: www.pacificsalmonforum.ca