The decline of fisheries over recent decades and a growing human population has coincided with an increase in aquaculture production. As farmed fish densities increase, so have their rates of infectious diseases, as predicted by the theory of density-dependent disease transmission. One of the pathogen that has increased with the growth of salmon farming is sea lice. Effective management of this pathogen requires an understanding of the spatial scale of transmission. We used a two-part multi-scale model to account for the zero-inflated data observed in weekly sea lice abundance levels on rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon farms in Chile, and to assess internal (farm) and external (regional) sources of sea lice infection. We observed that the level of juvenile sea lice was higher on farms that were closer to processing plants with fish holding facilities. Further, evidence for sea lice exposure from the surrounding area was supported by a strong positive correlation between the level of juvenile sea lice on a farm and the number of gravid females on neighboring farms within 30. km two weeks prior. The relationship between external sources of sea lice from neighboring farms and juvenile sea lice on a farm was one of the strongest detected in our multivariable model. Our findings suggest that the management of sea lice should be coordinated between farms and should include all farms and processing plants with holding facilities within a relatively large geographic area. Understanding the contribution of pathogens on a farm from different sources is an important step in developing effective control strategies.
- area management
- density-dependent pathogen
- salmon aquaculture
- sea lice
- two-part random effects model