A review of potential pathogens of sea lice and the application of cleaner fish in biological control

Pest Manag Sci. 2002 Jun;58(6):546-58. doi: 10.1002/ps.509.


There are many examples of successful biological control of pest populations in aquatic environments. This approach to sea louse control has environmental benefits and is cost-effective. The range of possible pathogens of lice is reviewed and epibionts recorded from sea lice, including the monogenean Udonella caligorum and ciliates, are examined. Baculoviruses when ingested by insects form occlusion bodies resulting in severe damage to the digestive system and subsequent death, and this may be a promising approach. Cleaner wrasse (Labridae) have been stocked commercially with farmed salmon since 1989, and recent work on improving the method is reviewed. Wrasse are sourced from a wild fishery and stocked at ratios of 1 to 25-150 salmon. Over 5 million wrasse are stocked annually in Norway and c 30% of smolts in Scotland were stocked with wrasse until 1998, when an outbreak of infections salmon anaemia (ISA) deterred many farmers from transferring wild fish to cages. A case study is given showing that salmon in cages stocked with wrasse had a burden of one to eight lice through the first year compared with up to 40 lice per fish on unprotected and untreated fish. Electivity indices were used to compare the relative composition of lice developmental stages on salmon in stocked and unstocked cages, and adult male and female lice were found to comprise only 6% of the population in cages with wrasse, compared with 49% adults on fish in control cages. Measures to improve the efficacy of wrasse as a way of cleaning salmon in the second production year include the use of refuges to assist over-wintering survival, and stocking ballan wrasse. Health hygiene includes sourcing wrasse in the farm locality, testing for pathogens, vaccination of wrasse and ultimately rearing wrasse for stocking. The role of wrasse in an IPM strategy is described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copepoda / microbiology*
  • Copepoda / parasitology*
  • Copepoda / physiology
  • Copepoda / virology
  • Fish Diseases / parasitology
  • Fish Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Fisheries
  • Parasitic Diseases, Animal / prevention & control
  • Perciformes / physiology*
  • Pest Control, Biological / economics
  • Pest Control, Biological / methods*
  • Predatory Behavior*
  • Salmon / parasitology*