The control protocols for the management of sea lice are operated by the Marine Institute on behalf of the State. All stocks of fish are inspected by institute inspectors on 14 occasions throughout the year. As part of this control strategy, farm operators are required to undertake treatments to control lice infestation levels once certain trigger levels are reached.
Mechanical methods of delousing are currently used in combatting instances of sea lice. In addition, several species of cleaner fish are used in Ireland as a method of controlling sea lice. The cleaner fish supplement their diet by removing and eating the lice. This biological method of control is very effective and can reduce the reliance on medicines to control sea lice.
In certain circumstances, treatments alone may not be the most appropriate strategy and, in a number of limited circumstances, an accelerated harvest may be required.
These protocols are more advanced than those operated in other jurisdictions for the following reasons: the inspection regime is totally independent of the industry, data obtained as a result of inspection is published and made widely available and treatment trigger levels are set at a low level. The sea lice monitoring and control programme in Ireland has been acknowledged by the environment directorate of the European Commission as representing best international practice.