Optimal Salmon Lice Treatment Threshold and Tragedy of the Commons in Salmon Farm Networks

Tróndur Jónsson Kragesteen*, Knud Simonsen, Andre Visser, Ken Haste Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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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 infections, authoritiesrequiretreatmentswhensealicelevelreachagiventhreshold. The treatment threshold is set to protect wild salmonid stocks but also to avoid costly lice infections on neighbouring farms. Here we make a bio-economic estimation of optimal treatment thresholds. We are particularly interested in identifying conflicts between the optimal threshold of for 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 demonstrate 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 incentive 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
Article number734329
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Salmon Aquaculture
  • Salmon lice
  • Treatment threshold
  • Management
  • Tragedy of the Commons

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