The Determination of Emamectin Benzoate and its Fate in the Environment as a Result of Fish Farming

  • Julie Edmonde Graham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


The farming of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is challenged by parasitic infestations caused by Lepeophthreirus salmonis and Caligus elongatus. A convenient and effective way to control sea lice and treat farmed salmon is by in-feed treatments such as Slice®.
A reliable, accurate and reproducible method for the determination of emamectin benzoate (EB), the active ingredient of Slice®, and its desmethylamino metabolite (DES) in sediment was developed and validated. It involved methanolic extraction, clean-up using solid-phase extraction with a strong cation exchanger, and derivatisation with trifluoroacetic acid anhydride and N-methylimidazole. Analytes were quantified following HPLC separation with fluorescence detection. The method was successfully applied to determine EB and DES in salmon flesh and skin, seawater, mussels (Mytilus edulis) and seaweed (Palmaria palmata).
A laboratory study showed that EB was persistent under anaerobic conditions in two different sediments at 4 and 14 ºC. A further study also demonstrated that the growth of seaweed (P. palmata) was not affected by the presence of EB and that EB did not accumulate significantly in the seaweed. This result is encouraging in view of proposed polyculture systems involving seaweeds.
Studies conducted on a working Scottish salmon farm investigated the fate of EB and DES in target and non-target matrices. For three months post-treatment, EB was detected, by mass in descending order, in the salmon flesh, skin, faeces, then mucus and sea lice with concentrations in each matrix declining steadily over the period. As EB had never been quantified in sea lice before, it was unclear whether they were a significant sink for EB in the environment, following their exposure to the medicine and dislodging from salmon after feeding. However, due to the low concentrations of EB detected in the sea lice, faeces are most probably the main route for emamectin entering the environment.
Sediment collected directly below and around two active walkways, over five or six months following treatment, showed that the spatial dispersion of EB and DES was mainly limited to the area within 25 m of the cage edge, although concentrations depended on sampling location in relation to water currents. Maximum EB concentrations were recorded three months after treatment. Seven days after treatment, 6 % of the total EB input was present in the sediments within 25 m of the cage edge. Neither EB nor DES were detected in seawater, mussels, periwinkles, dogwhelks and seaweed samples collected from the walkway and the surrounding environment. This work, one of the few studies of the uptake of EB by indigenous fauna and flora of an active salmon farm, suggests that it is not significantly accumulated in matrices outwith the target organism and the sediment.
Date of Award2 May 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh

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