Relationship between sea lice levels on sea trout and fish farm activity in western Scotland


Correspondence: Stuart J. Middlemas, Marine Scotland Science Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory, Faskally, Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH16 5LB, UK (e-mail:


The relationship between aquaculture and infestations of sea lice on sea trout, Salmo trutta L., is controversial. Here, the association between sea lice infestations on wild sea trout and characteristics of local Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., farms were investigated using data collected on the Scottish west coast. The proportion of sea trout with louse burdens above a critical level was positively related to the fork length of the sea trout and the mean weight of salmon on the nearest fish farm, and negatively related to the distance to that farm. The distance to the nearest fish farm did not influence the probability of infestations above the critical level beyond 31 km although there was considerable uncertainty around this cut-off distance (95% limits: 13–149 km). The results support a link between Atlantic salmon farms and sea lice burdens on sea trout in the west of Scotland and provide the type of information required for marine spatial planning.