VisuaLice Project - Vaki
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VisuaLice Project

Enhance monitoring of sea lice using video technology VisuaLice project: Enhance monitoring of sea lice using video technology


Picture showing adult sea lice. 
The image is based on UV illumination and post processing of colors.


The salmon louse is a parasitic copepod that exclusively uses salmonids as its host. These salmonids are salmon, trout, rainbow trout and arctic char. The salmon louse has a simple life cycle meaning it requires only one host. Larvae hatch from egg strings that are attached to the maternal louse, and directly enter the ocean.

The salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) is a severe problem for wild salmonids and a huge challenge for the farming industry. The industry today is facing serious and growing problems with sea lice control. VAKI in collaboration with Silsoe Livestock Systems, Marine Harvest and UPEI is working on a project, called VisuaLice to significantly improve the strategic control of sea lice infestations at farms worldwide.

Regular and accurate sea lice counting is a vital part of lice control on salmon farms.

However, the manual methods currently used are:
- Time consuming
- Their accuracy is highly dependent on the skill of the human inspector
- They require access to sea pens in increasingly exposed locations
- The crowding of fish to collect samples imposes additional stress on the fish

As a result, only a small number of fish can be sampled leading to problems with the statistical reliability of any population estimates. A passive, automated counting system offers the benefits of enhanced repeatability and accuracy, larger sample sizes, continuous monitoring, lower costs, and lower levels of disturbance for the fish. Such an approach using underwater image capture and analysis techniques was explored in a pilot study involving Scottish researchers in July 2005. The success of this initial study has led to a follow-on innovation award under the Eurostars project VisuaLice E!4721.

The VisuaLice project builds on earlier work. It will trial pre-commercial equipment to validate this approach and calibrate the image capture and processing algorithms. These trials will take place in Scotland and Norway, with a research team that includes scientists and engineers from Iceland, England, and Canada. The Canadian involvement is mainly focused on the epidemiological interpretation of the data collected. The additional features and extensive nature of this data should better facilitate estimates of rates of population change, short term population variations, and enhance accuracy of prevalence estimation. The increased accuracy and temporal resolution provided by this novel approach will offer many benefits, including the ability to improve the timing and evaluation of treatment interventions, and achieve greater accuracy in the modeling of sea lice population dynamics.

Duration: Jan’10 – Jun’12
Funded by: Eurostars EU,FHF Norway, ACOA/AIF
Project team: Jeff Lines (Silsoe Livestock Systems), Thorvaldur Petursson (Vaki Aquaculture Systems), Crawford Revie (UPEI), Gordon Ritchie (Marine Harvest ASA), Chris Wallace (Marine Harvest Scotland)
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