New Models of Salmon Health Management

OFI Large Research Module L

This research project will develop computer models showing the spread of disease in marine-farmed Atlantic salmon populations, evaluate data from novel sensors in salmon pens to reduce disease risk in farmed and wild salmon populations, and facilitate the sustainable growth of ecosystem-based aquaculture in Canada.   

About the research

Atlantic salmon are farmed on both the east and west coasts of Canada. High densities of salmon per pen and high numbers per farm increase economic benefits but increase the risk of disease outbreaks and may worsen the spread of disease. Such outbreaks often require antibiotic and antiparasitic treatments. This research will identify strategies to improve the delivery of medication to large populations of fish, provide estimates of the maximum number and density of salmon per farm and improve antimicrobial and antiparasitic treatments. It will also use novel digital sensors to observe salmon pens and improve the early detection and control of diseases.  

The research project has four segments:

  1. Development of risk-based models to reduce the spread of Infectious salmon anaemia virus
  2. Development of methods for improving antimicrobial and antiparasitic treatment efficacy
  3. Development of modeling tools to investigate disease occurrences, transmission patterns, and mitigation strategies (focusing on sea lice control)
  4. Interpretation of novel data streams from pen-level sensors and microscale current patterns for fish health monitoring and parasite control (focusing on sea lice control)  

Models will be developed at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), and observational studies conducted at Atlantic salmon aquaculture sites in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.     

The impact  

In 2015, Canadian aquaculture production was valued at $967 million, creating approximately 14,000 jobs, 95% of which are located in coastal and rural communities across the country. For farmed Atlantic salmon, Canada is the fourth-largest producer globally. This research will help to protect farmed and native salmon populations by improving practices of health monitoring, disease transmission control, and disease treatment for farmed salmon. A profitable and sustainable salmon aquaculture sector benefits Canada through job creation, economic growth and provision of healthy food. 

Research deliverables:

  • industry- and policy-relevant science advice and tools for more effective area-based management of salmon aquaculture
  • improved disease treatment efficacy with reduced environmental impact and early disease detection, while maintaining aquatic biodiversity  
  • technological innovation through the use and interpretation of sensor data for early disease detection and enhanced understanding of pathogen transmission between salmon pens
  • model and sensor studies to enable the industry to apply treatments earlier in the disease process, which has been shown to improve efficacy of treatments 
  • identify strategies that improve the delivery of medication to large fish populations   

In addition, government agencies and professional associations are requiring health care professionals, including veterinarians, to address and minimize the use of antimicrobials. The proposed research will begin to undertake this task for aquaculture in Canada. The ultimate goal is to reduce the use of chemotherapeutants in Canadian aquaculture while remaining globally competitive.

The research team

The module is led by Ian Gardner of UPEI (pictured below), who holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Aquatic Epidemiology.

Ian Gardner, University of Prince Edward Island

Team members:

  • Crawford Revie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Population Health: Epi-Informatics
  • Sophie St-Hilaire, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Integrated Health Research for Sustainable Aquaculture
  • Henrik Stryhn of UPEI
  • Raphael Vanderstichel of UPEI
  • Jon Grant of Dalhousie University, who holds the NSERC-Cooke Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Aquaculture 


  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Eastern Aquatic Veterinarians Association
  • Fish-i-Trends
  • United States Department of Agriculture
  • Norwegian Veterinarian Institute
  • Norwegian School of Veterinary Science
  • SINTEF of Norway