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SLICE: A Sustainable Treatment Against Sea Lice

04 February 2014

ANALYSIS - Robin Wardle, Global strategic Marketing Director and Chris Haacke, Global Marketing Director, MSD Animal Health talk to Lucy Towers, TheFishSite.com Editor about MSD's sustainable sea lice treatment, SLICE.

What is the current sea lice situation?

Sea Lice continue to be one of the major threats to salmon farming around the world. However, that threat has been reduced since the introduction of SLICE, MSD’s sea lice treatment. In the late 1990’s early 2000’s, sea lice caused devastating losses and damage to farmed fish on a regular basis. Today, the damage and welfare issues are greatly reduced with levels of sea lice being maintained at historically low levels, e.g. less than one louse per fish or lower at critical times of the year.

There is a strong focus on keeping levels low to ensure that farms cannot be a source of infection to wild fish as well as keeping the economic impacts of infections to a minimum. This change of perspective has changed the way that treatment programmes are developed and implemented.

In any anti-parasite treatment programme, the use of compounds brings a risk of the development of resistance. This is simply a matter of natural selection- with the prevalence of naturally occurring tolerant individuals becoming more frequent. This has happened with all the classes of treatments available.

With this firmly in mind, MSD Animal Health was first involved in the concept of integrated sea lice management (ISLM) as a programme and, in the past few years, has developed a SLICE specific programme called the SLICE Sustainability Project (SSP).

SSP emphasises the importance of sea lice control in sustainable salmon farming. The focus is on sustaining SLICE as the most effective and most productive method of treatment because it offers a long term effect and is administered in feed without the stress and difficulties of bath treatments.

Protect, Conserve, Renew and Succeed is the framework of the SLICE Sustainability Project (SSP) - how does this work?

SSP is a global initiative by the aquaculture business of MSD Animal Health and, is based on four core actions — Protect, Conserve, Renew and Succeed. These are essential for developing sustainable sea lice control programmes for the world’s salmon industry.

The SLICE Sustainability Project is backed by MSD Animal Health’s network of global technical specialists and consultants who are ready to take an active role in training farm personnel and developing science-driven programmes aimed at optimising product efficacy and longevity.

The programme also involves a global network of analytical laboratories, which have been identified by MSD Animal Health for conducting bioassays, feed and tissue analyses, and other tests needed to implement the programme effectively.

The technical team working in close collaboration with farm veternarians and health specialists coordinate the quality control part of the programme. Samples of feed and treated salmon flesh can be analysed to determine whether the treatment recommendations have been successfully carried out. A Bioassay service, run in conjunction with specialist laboratories, tests and monitors the sensitivity of the sea lice in the farm. A new data base recently developed is being implemented to provide individual treatment reports including benchmarking against target treatment parameters.

MSD Animal Health, in collaboration with the veterinarians in charge of the fish in selected farms, is developing additional bench marking and analytical tools to assist in improving best practice recommendations. The core objective is to maximise performance of individual treatments and to conserve SLICE for future treatment programmes by avoiding or reducing the spread of resistance in the sea lice populations.

How does SLICE improve the performance/health of fish?

The SLICE treatment is administered in feed, preventing stress to the fish and with minimal disruption to normal farming practices. SLICE kills all stages of sea lice and can last for up to eight weeks, meaning that during the peak infection periods fewer treatments are needed.

SLICE offers a balance between the length of activity and ease of use, whilst preventing the risk of over use and potential for resistance should be maintained. With careful treatment monitoring, good treatment practices and good planning, all supported by the SLICE Sustainability Project, SLICE can continue to be a central part of sea lice control strategies in all regions.

Can you tell me a bit more about how MSD Animal Health works with farmers?

MSD Animal Health Aquaculture aims to work in very close collaboration with all stakeholders in the delivery of health programmes in salmon farms. This collaboration is designed to ensure that best practice recommendations can be built up that are based on science and data but accommodate the variations of farming environments and objectives and the practical aspects of delivering medicines and vaccines.

The salmon health programmes have been given names in some countries for example, SLICE and PD Monitor in the UK and Ireland; Ring Fence in Chile; and Team Aquatic and NORVAX Productivity in Norway; and, of course, the SLICE Sustainability Project.

The company’s first programme for tilapia has recently been launched called ‘Strep Control: Your Tilapia Health’ to bring the concepts of collaboration, science and practical farming together for tilapia farmers around the world.

How does the SLICE Sustainability Project help the aquaculture industry as a whole?

SLICE revolutionised the treatment and control of sea lice. It continues to be the most valuable and important product for the industry.

MSD’s project is designed simply to maximise the performance of SLICE at every treatment point and to provide every veterinarian, farmer and policy maker the science upon which to base good treatment practice. The programme is proactive in anticipating new and emerging needs in farms, changes in farming practice as well as in keeping pace with the changes that occur in the sea lice populations that can affect salmon being farmed in a region.

It is a big project, but with the fantastic support and collaboration MSD has with the industry and all stake holders, it is the recipe for long term success in sea lice control.

Where is the SLICE Sustainability Project available?

The SLICE project is available in all countries where SLICE is available- Norway, Faroes, UK, Ireland, Chile and Canada. It is managed and delivered on farms by local technical specialists alongside the farm veternarian and is supported by MSD’s global team.

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