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Opening a can of worms: Archived canned fish filets reveal 40 years of change in parasite burden for four salmon species
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  • Natalie Mastick,
  • Rachel Welicky,
  • Aspen Katla,
  • Bruce Odegaard,
  • Virginia Ng,
  • Chelsea Wood
Natalie Mastick
University of Washington

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Rachel Welicky
Neumann University
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Aspen Katla
University of Washington
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Bruce Odegaard
Seafood Products Association
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Virginia Ng
Seafood Products Association
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Chelsea Wood
University of Washington
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Abstract

How has parasitism changed for Alaskan salmon over the past several decades? Parasitological assessments of salmon are inconsistent across time, which may be an oversight: the landscape of parasite risk is changing for salmon, and long-term data are needed to quantify this change. Parasitic nematodes of the family Anisakidae use salmon as intermediate or paratenic hosts in life cycles that terminate in marine mammal definitive hosts. Alaskan marine mammals have been protected since the 1970s, and as populations recover, the density of definitive hosts in this region has increased. To assess whether anisakid burden has changed in salmon over time, we used a novel data source: salmon that were caught, canned, and thermally processed for human consumption in Alaska, USA. We examined canned fillets of chum (Oncorhynchus keta, n = 42), coho (O. kisutch, n = 22), pink (O. gorbuscha, n = 62), and sockeye salmon (O. nerka, n = 52) processed between 1979 and 2019. We dissected each fillet and quantified the number of worms per gram of salmon tissue. Anisakid burden increased over time in chum and pink salmon, but there was no change in sockeye or coho salmon. This difference may be due to differences in the prey preferences of each species, or time spent in marine systems. Canned fish serve as a window into the past, providing information on change over time in the parasite burden of commercially, culturally, and ecologically important fish species that would otherwise be lost.