Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that Alaskan Salmon may be infected with tapeworms that can grow up to 30 feet in length. Now reports have surfaced indicating that an “acute” outbreak of sea lice is driving salmon prices upstream.
Salmon farms in Norway and Scotland, two of the world’s largest exporters, have been decimated by sea lice, a parasite that feasts on the blood and skin of salmon, while a toxic algae bloom in Chile has killed enough of the fish to fill several Olympic swimming pools. These events have led to an economic ripple effect that’s hitting American salmon buyers square in the wallet.
Sea lice, also known as sea louse or salmon louse, killed off huge numbers of farmed salmon last year as worldwide supplies dropped nearly 10%. This led to wholesale price increases of up to 50%.
Adult salmon can handle the lice, but the parasites can wear down a younger fish’s immune system, causing infections and ultimately killing it. And though wild salmon may pick up some lice in open waters, the insects die when they spawn in freshwater streams. By comparison, farms — where salmon are confined to smaller spaces — create a fertile breeding ground for lice.
Salmon producers have tried using pesticides to combat the problem, but some strands of sea lice have grown immune to the chemicals. Salmons farmers, who have lost millions over the past year, have invested heavily in developing farms where the pest is unable to thrive. The Norwegian company Nordlaks has invested $71 million in a project that aims to help fish avoid tight confines where sea lice can propagate.
While scientists and salmon farmers try various methods of combating such outbreaks, sea lice are likely doing enough damage to create higher prices throughout 2017. Maybe next time you should pass on that second slice of sashimi.
Salmon Louse Asci and ascospores, Morchella elata (morel)
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