Salmon sea lice epidemic is fueled by climate change

Salmon suppliers have been hard hit by an epidemic of sorts, one involving sea lice and their pervasiveness among the salmon population. Sea lice are a type of parasite that feed on a fish's blood and flesh, rendering them in some cases unsuitable for human consumption. Salmon numbers from the world's largest suppliers are down, and the resulting shortage has caused a major uptick in wholesale prices, which are ultimately passed on to the average consumer.

Salmon production has been dropping since 2015, with last year representing the biggest impacts. Some of the top salmon suppliers include Scotland, Norway, and Chile, all of which have been afflicted by the sea lice issue. Compounding the issue are instances of amebic gill disease, another parasite-related problem.

It seems global warming is fueling this epidemic, with warmer waters better enabling the parasite to breed in larger numbers without mass die-offs. Making this more difficult are, in some cases, accidental mass fish deaths caused by attempts to treat the lice — in one instance, about 175k fish were accidentally killed in Scotland during treatment.

Multiple methods of treatment are being explored, some involving 'natural' methods like cleaner fish, and others involving chemicals. Until an adequate solution is found, though, salmon prices around the world keep climbing, and are expected to grow steeply in the coming months. Though salmon costs have only gone up somewhere near 20-percent for consumers, that's because suppliers have largely been absorbing the costs to try and avoid a massive increase.

SOURCE: The Guardian