Optimal salmon lice treatment threshold and tragedy of the commons in salmon farm networks

Tróndur J. Kragesteen, Knud Simonsen, André W. Visser, Ken H. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The ectoparasite Lepeophtheirus salmonis has for decades plagued salmon aquaculture by decreasing profits and
impacting wild salmon stocks. To protect migrating wild salmon stocks and avoid excessive cross-farm infec-
tions, authorities require treatments when sea lice level reach a given threshold. The treatment threshold is set to
protect wild salmonid stocks but also to avoid costly lice infections on neighboring farms. Here we make a bio-
economic estimation of optimal treatment thresholds. We are particularly interested in identifying conflicts
between the optimal threshold of the entire system of farms and for the individual farmer. We show that isolated
individual farms can maximize profit by operating with a high threshold, while the maximum profit for an entire
network of farms occurs with a threshold about 0.1 gravid female lice/salmon. These findings substantiate the
Norwegian policy of lowering the lice treatment threshold below 0.5 gravid lice/salmon. The results also de-
monstrate that too low a treatment threshold results in high treatment rates. The difference between the optimal
treatment strategy of individual farmers and that for the total system demonstrates that management of salmon
lice infections operates in a tragedy-of-the-commons environment, where individual farmers may have an in-
centive to disregard legislation at the expense of the others in the network. This means that strong enforcement is
needed to achieve optimal management of salmon lice infections.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquaculture
Volume512
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Salmon aquaculture
  • Salmon lice
  • Treatment threshold
  • Management
  • Tragedy of the commons

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