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Farmed Salmon Industry Causing Global Sea Lice Crisis

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Farmed Salmon Industry Causing Global Sea Lice Crisis

A tiny bug is behind a major problem in the global farmed salmon industry.

The sea louse, or salmon louse, is eating into farmed Atlantic salmon supplies in Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Canada, driving salmon prices higher and creating a "chemical arms race in the seas," the Guardian reports.


Salmon companies around the world are spending an estimated $1.25 billion a year combined to tackle such outbreaks, the publication notes.

Salmon lice attach themselves onto wild or farmed salmon, living off the host fish's blood and skin and leaving it vulnerable to infections. As EcoWatch explained previously, crowded conditions in pens used for raising salmon can provide an ideal breeding ground for sea lice. In farms in some parts of the world, a pesticide is used to combat sea lice that is toxic to marine life and banned by both the European Union and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"What we are seeing now is a chemical arms race in the seas, just like on the land farms, where the resistance of plants to chemicals is growing," Don Staniford, head of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, told the Guardian. "In fish farms, the parasites are increasing resistance to chemicals and antibiotics. There has been a 10-fold increase in the use of some chemicals in the past 18 months."

Chemicals used to control salmon lice rose 932 percent on Scottish farms in the last decade, even though farmed salmon production only increased by 35 percent. Norway has ramped up its usage of hydrogen peroxide baths surged as well.

But like superweeds, salmon lice are growing resistant to such chemicals and antibiotics, leading some salmon farms to resort to potentially risky methods to beat back the parasite.

Staniford also described how some farms are using mechanical ways to remove the lice.

"They are using hydro-dousers, like huge carwashes, and thermal lousing, which heats them up," he said.

In Scotland, fish farming giant Marine Harvest used such a warming device called a thermolicer to delouse its caged salmon, but ended up accidentally killing 95,000 fish.

In Canada—where an infestation last year led to the deaths of more than half a million salmon—scientists are experimenting with using Pacific perch to clean lice from infested fish.

Some farms in Norway have successfully used this delousing method, deploying millions of wrasse to keep their salmon stocks healthy.

However, even that technique has a catch—a new study found that this practice may be depleting wild wrasse populations.

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

By Jake Johnson

Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.

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Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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