Simon Fraser University has issued a press release claiming that the highly contagious marine influenza virus, Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) has for the first time been officially reported after being found in the Pacific on B.C.’s central coast.
"Now it threatens both wild salmon and herring", said the press release, quoting Alexandra Morton and Simon Fraser University professor Rick Routledge, whose laboratory led to the discovery of ISA in B.C. salmon smolts.
Morton is calling for removal of Atlantic salmon from B.C. salmon farms. “Loosing a virus as lethal and contagious as ISA into the North Pacific is a cataclysmic biological threat to life,” said Morton. “The European strain of ISA virus can only have come from the Atlantic salmon farms. European strain ISA infected Chile via Atlantic salmon eggs in 2007.”
Morton says ISA was first found in Norway in 1984. “Since then, there have been lethal outbreaks in every important salmon-farming region around the globe, with the exception – or so we thought – of B.C. Now we know for sure that it has hit B.C.
“The Cohen Inquiry revealed ISA symptoms have been reported in farm salmon in B.C. since 2006. The Fisheries Ministers have written me repeatedly that B.C. is safe from ISA. Clearly they are not in control of the situation.
“If there is any hope, we have to turn off the source: Atlantic salmon have to be immediately removed.”
The virus was found in two of 48 sockeye smolts collected as part of a long-term study, led by Routledge, on the collapse of Rivers Inlet sockeye populations.
“A scientific study concluded that salmon eggs shipped from Norway to Chile are the ‘likely reason’ for the outbreak of the virus in Chile in 2007. And nearly 40 million Atlantic salmon eggs have been imported into B.C. since 1986.”
“This is devastating news and something I worked hard to prevent. This has international implications throughout the North Pacific,” Morton said.
Routledge concurs that the only plausible source for the European strain of ISA virus that he found on B.C.’s Central Coast is the Atlantic salmon farms.
The B.C. Salmon Farmers' Association said on their members are actively following up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA is reviewing the validity of these publicized but as yet unconfirmed results. The BC Salmon Farmers Association has not yet been able to review the findings.
Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director, Grieg Seafood said "Farm-raised Atlantic salmon, unlike their Pacific cousins, are susceptible to ISA, so this is a concern for our operations, but much less likely to be an issue for the different Pacific species." "If these results are valid, this could be a threat to our business and the communities that rely on our productive industry."
The results were reportedly found in juvenile Sockeye smolts in Rivers Inlet - an area north of most salmon farms. These fish would not have passed aquaculture operations, but our farmers remain concerned about what this means, and how the disease, which is not native to British Columbia, may have been introduced.
"Samples from BC's salmon farms are tested regularly for ISA by our regulator's fish health departments and have never found a positive case on a farm. Over 4,700 individual fish samples have been assessed and proven to be negative. These unconfirmed findings certainly are unexpected, unusual and warrant further investigation," said Clare Backman, Sustainability Director for Marine Harvest Canada.
Extensive egg importation regulations were implemented years ago to ensure that disease is not imported to BC waters. Experts testified at the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon that these regulations were strong and proactive in reducing the risk of disease. Testing done by third party researchers in the past on wild Sockeye have returned negative results for ISA as well. Biosecurity protocols both within each company and across the industry also protect the health of wild and farmed fish.
"Our fish remain healthy and we are seeing no indication of the presence of ISA," said Hawthorn. "It is very important that our fish remain healthy - to support our ongoing commitment to our businesses, our communities and our environment."
"News reports claiming that ISA has been found in B.C. were widely publicized today and we have many concerns about this information, as well as how it is being reported" said Mainstream Canada.
"We are in agreement with a statement published by the BC Salmon Farmers Association: "Our members are actively following up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA is reviewing the validity of these publicized but as yet unconfirmed results. The BC Salmon Farmers Association has not yet been able to review the findings. It is also important to point out that out of more than 4,700 tests done on farmed salmon in B.C. there have never been any positive results showing there is ISA in B.C. The news reports are based on a lab report showing two of 48 samples of juvenile salmon smolts from Rivers Inlet, far from any farm sites, tested positive for ISA. The samples were extremely small and were used up in testing. We remain skeptical and are following the story as it unfolds, and are waiting to hear more from the CFIA".
More responses of interest:
Blog: ISA in B.C.?
Salmon Farm Science, Oct 17, 2011
…That’s a serious claim to make. Has it been confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency? Apparently not, we hear. Yet there is a press conference, a media release and a story already in the Vancouver Sunabout this proclaiming that the sky is falling. This seems decidedly anti-scientific Read the blog.
News: SFU salmon study needs more analysis
The Daily News October 18, 2011
While the report from Simon Fraser University regarding a flu-like virus that is affecting the Atlantic salmon in fish farms and now found in wild sockeye salmon from B.C.'s Rivers Inlet is unsettling, it bears further scrutiny. Read the full story