DV-15-04 The range, prevalence, and abundance of codworm in the Gulf of Maine

Carrie J. Byron
University of New England

Pseudoterranova decipiens, also known as codworm or sealworm, is a parasitic marine nematode that affects invertebrates (such as copepods), seals, and more than 75 species of fish including commercially important species such as Atlantic cod, halibut, yellowtail flounder, and windowpane flounder.

Infection of these fish species presents both an economic and a public health issue. Due to its potential to cause illness in humans, P. decipiens must be removed from fish fillets before they can be sold. However, detecting and removing the parasite is a high-cost process that isn’t always effective, and therefore infected fish are far less valuable to the market. Determining population parameters for this parasite in the Gulf of Maine will allow for a more complete understanding of its overall presence in the North Atlantic, allowing fishermen in the industry to target areas of the Gulf of Maine at certain times of year when they are most likely to catch fish with the lowest codworm infection.

This project will focus on determining the population parameters of P. decipiens in Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine, first by collecting and identifying worms from fish samples. Eventually, one of the goals is to examine the relationship between prevalence/abundance of P. decipiens and its proximity to seal sites to understand how increasing seal numbers in the Gulf may affect the parasite’s presence in the region. Sea Grant funds are supporting sample analysis.

Sea Grant Funds: $1,071