sea lice

Scientist gets top award for a ‘lousy’ choice

Dr. Simon Jones honoured as a new report states salmon farming companies have slashed medicinal sea lice treatments by 50 percent in six years

By Fabian Dawson

Dr. Simon Jones made a ‘lousy’ choice when pursuing his career in ocean science.

Last night, he was recognised for this with an Excellence in Research award during a gala dinner at the 2019 Aquaculture Canada Conference in Victoria.

“I was shocked when I heard I was chosen for this award,” said Dr. Jones, (pictured) one of the world’s leading authorities on sea lice and the lead scientist in the finfish parasitology program at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) Pacific Biological Station.

“There are so many people deserving of this award as my work is the result of collaboration with many of my colleagues…without their efforts, I couldn’t do what I do,” said Dr. Jones, who has published 115 peer reviewed papers, over his storied career.

Joanne Liutkus, president of the Aquaculture Association of Canada, said the biannual Aquaculture Research Award of Excellence recognises individuals for their outstanding contribution to aquaculture research in Canada.

“Dr. Jones has had a significant impact on the aquaculture industry in Canada with his high quality innovative research,” she said.

“In addition, he plays a central role in an ongoing effort to advise the Federal Government on the likelihood and consequences of risks to wild salmon in BC posed by infection and disease in marine-reared Atlantic salmon.”

The award was presented as the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI)  reported that the world’s main salmon producers have halved the amount of medical treatments used against sea lice over the course of the last six years.

The GSI is focused on making significant progress on industry sustainability to support aquaculture which the UN states is the key to replenish our overfished oceans.

In its 2018 Sustainability Report, released this week, the GSI said that over the six-year period there has also been a 120 percent increase in use of non-medicinal sea lice management methods – thanks to technological advancements and best-practice sharing.

Dr. Jones told SeaWestNews that the global picture of reduced medicinal treatments to combat sea lice, is reflected in what is going on British Columbia.

“The continued proactive use of non-medicinal integrated sea lice management techniques by fish farmers in B.C, is good news for both wild and farmed salmon,” he said.

Sea lice are naturally-occurring parasites that have lived in BC’s coastal waters for thousands of years. Farmed fish are free of sea lice when they enter the ocean but can pick them up in the marine environment.

Farm operators must routinely conduct counts of sea lice on their fish and report these numbers monthly to DFO. Sea lice abundance varies from year to year and is influenced by environmental conditions like ocean salinity and temperature.

Most years, more than 90% of salmon farm sites in B.C. are below the regulatory thresholds for sea lice.

Dr. Jones said the data collected by the transparent reporting mechanism, is helping him and his colleagues develop models to better predict, the abundance of the parasite in B.C. waters.

He said that when compared to Norway and Chile, which are global aquaculture giants, B.C.’s sea lice issue is miniscule.

In B.C., salmon farming companies are constantly investing in integrated pest management strategies allowing treatment with both freshwater bath and hydrogen peroxide, two sea lice treatment methods encouraged by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

Last month, Mowi Canada West, took possession of the $35 million Aqua Tromoy, to provide environmentally friendly fish health treatments and for moving fish from site to site.

This is in addition to its ‘hydrolicer’ barge, which uses a chemical-free method for controlling sea lice.

Cermaq is also expecting to take delivery of its $12-million, custom-built ‘hydrolicer’ this year.

Greig Seafood has also invested in a $50 million well-boat that is due to arrive in B.C. later this year to enhance the company’s anti-lice treatments. The vessel will provide both freshwater and hydrogen peroxide anti-sea lice treatments for salmon farms.

Who is Dr. Simon Jones

Born in Scotland and raised in the South of England, Dr. Simon Jones, is the lead scientist in the finfish parasitology program at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station. The father of two, lives with his wife in Nanaimo.

When not studying sea lice and its impact on the marine environment, Dr. Jones dabbles in wine making, highland bagpiping and is a general aviation buff.

Dr. Jones completed his B.Sc. in Marine Biology and went on to obtain his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in aquatic parasitology from the University of Guelph. He took up an NSERC-funded postdoctoral fellowship at Wageningen University in the Netherlands where he studied fish immunology. This led to an NSERC industrial fellowship in Charlottetown, where he spent 8 years researching the development of commercial vaccines for use in salmon aquaculture against piscirickettsiosis, infectious salmon anaemia and cold water vibriosis, among others.

In 2000, Dr. Jones accepted a research scientist position with DFO at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo where he now leads the Marine Parasitology Program. This research program is highly collaborative with strong links to industry and academia, in Canada and overseas. Dr. Jones’ diverse background and research interests are reflected in the areas on which the program focuses: pathogen diversity, host interactions and disease mitigation.

Currently, he is interested in disentangling the roles of environmental, host and infectious factors in the occurrence of proliferative gill disease, which is emergent and of considerable significance to marine cultured salmon in BC. His long-term interest in salmon lice seeks to better understand mechanisms underlying the highly variable susceptibility to sea lice among species of Pacific salmon and the significance of the threespine stickleback to the ecology of salmon lice in Western Canada.

In addition, he plays a central role in an ongoing effort to advise the Federal Government on the likelihood and consequences of risks to wild salmon in BC posed by infection and disease in marine-reared Atlantic salmon.

Dr. Jones is past chair and current member of the ICES Working Group on Pathology and Diseases of Marine Organisms, which provides annual advice to ICES member countries on diseases of note in wild and farmed finfish and shellfish. Dr. Jones also serves as the Canadian Branch Officer for the European Association of Fish Pathologists. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Fish Diseases and the Bulletin of the EAFP and is adjunct faculty at the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University.


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