Sea lice are naturally occurring, minute parasites that have existed for millions of years. They attach themselves to the skin, fins, and gills of wild and farmed marine fish, and feed on host mucus and skin.
Sea lice are small, salt-water copepods or crustaceans with soft bodies that are generally enclosed within a hard, protective outer shell. Sea lice have a rounded body shaped like a cylinder and many legs for swimming and collecting food. The term sea lice actually refer to several species of copepods that infect fish. Sea lice attach to the outside of fish, either on skin, fins, or gills and feed on the mucous layer secreted by the fish's skin.
There continues to be surges of (mis)information circulated about sea lice and its impact on aquaculture, particularly in British Columbia. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to protecting our fish stocks, both farmed and wild. With this commitment in mind, the Department researchers and scientists work diligently to ensure the safety and sustainability of both aquaculture and wild salmon fisheries.