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HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning

Economic impact of genomic selection on reducing treatments for sea lice infestation in Atlantic salmon aquaculture

Alternative title: Økonomisk verdi av genomisk seleksjon for økt resistens mot lakselus i oppdrettslaks ved en reduksjon i antall lusebehandlinger

Awarded: NOK 4.5 mill.

Project Manager:

Project Number:

332349

Project Period:

2022 - 2025

Location:

One of the biggest challenges to the Atlantic salmon industry is sea lice infestation. Sea lice infestation affects animal welfare, local environment and has negative economic consequences due to the number of treatments needed to maintain low or zero sea lice. Over the last decade, sea lice treatments have been deployed to control sea lice infestation when the average number of adult female lice per fish approaches on average 0.25 or 0.50. These controls for sea lice have direct financial and indirect other health costs (NOK 7.3 billion or NOK 5.37/kg fish produced). An alternative and more sustainable strategy to reduce sea lice infection is through genetic improvement. However, so far there has been no investigation on how much genetic improvement in lice resistance leads to reduced number of lice treatments on commercial farming setup. The overall aim of this project is to investigate the impact of genetic improvement on the number and economics of lice treatments. This project provides a bridge between state-of-the-art on-going breeding/genetic technology and farm production and sustainability by reducing the number of lice treatments and hence improving productivity, welfare and fish health in the Norwegian Atlantic salmon industry.

One of the biggest challenges to the Atlantic salmon industry is sea lice infestation, affecting animal welfare, local environment and having negative economic consequences due to the number of treatments needed to maintain low or zero lice levels. Over the last decade, sea lice treatments have been deployed to control sea lice infestation when the average number of adult female lice per fish approaches on average 0.25 or 0.50. These controls for sea lice have direct financial and indirect other health costs. From year 2012 to 2017, the number of delousing treatments per year increased by 40% despite only marginal increases in biomass production during the same period. In 2019, a total cost of sea lice was estimated at NOK 7.3 billion or NOK 5.37/kg fish produced. An alternative and more sustainable strategy to reduce sea lice infection is through selective breeding. The genetic potential for improving lice resistance is substantial and genetic gain is about 10% per generation. However, so far there has been no investigation on how the genetic gains in lice resistance (selection based on lice count data from controlled challenge test) translates into correlated genetic gain in reduced number of lice treatments which is the ultimate economic breeding goal trait for the industry. The overall aim of this project is to investigate the genetic association between genomic selection for lice resistance and number of lice treatments in Atlantic salmon during the entire grow-out period. In addition, a bioeconomic model will be developed for deriving the economic impact of genetic change of number of lice treatments. This innovative development provides a bridge between state-of-the-art on-going breeding/genetic technology and farm production and sustainability by reducing the number of lice treatments and hence improving productivity, welfare and fish health in the Norwegian Atlantic salmon industry.

Funding scheme:

HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning