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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WFC Response to ISAv Detection in B.C.

News that Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv) was detected in coastal British Columbia sockeye salmon is greatly alarming. The presence of this virus, never before detected in the Pacific Northwest, poses a serious threat to native salmon species that are already in decline or endangered.
Oct 18, 2011

WILD FISH CONSERVANCY

PO Box 402 Duvall, WA 98019 · Tel 425-788-1167 · Fax 425-788-9634 info@wildfishconservancy.org

Contact: Todd Sandell, Wild Fish Conservancy, 206-707-2979
Dr. James Winton, U.S. Geological Survey-Western Fisheries Research Center, 206-526-6587
Dr. Fred Kibenge, Atlantic Veterinary College-University of Prince Edward Island, 902-566-0967

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wild Fish Conservancy Response to ISAv Detection in B.C.

News that Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv) was detected in coastal British Columbia sockeye salmon is greatly alarming.  The results were reported by the laboratory of Dr. Fred Kibenge at the Atlantic Veterinary College, which serves as the World Organization for Animal Health’s ISAv reference laboratory.  The presence of this virus, never before detected in the Pacific Northwest, poses a serious threat to native salmon species that are already in decline or endangered.  The discovery was referred to as a disease emergency with “global implications” by Dr. James Winton, fish health section chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Center. The virus is not infectious to humans.

Although previous research indicated that ISAv was not as virulent for Pacific salmonids as for Atlantic salmon, the virus can readily mutate and was recently implicated in widespread mortalities among farmed coho salmon in Chile and is likely involved in the recent declines of sockeye salmon in British Columbia.  The strain of ISAv detected is of European origin, suggesting that the virus was introduced to western Canada via the importation of infected Atlantic salmon eggs by the salmon aquaculture industry.  Assurances that these fish did not harbor ISAv, voiced by both the source countries and the aquaculture industry, were inadequate and misleading; given the findings of the recent Cohen commission, it also appears that oversight of the aquaculture industry in B.C. has been compromised.  Immediate steps need to be taken by both Canadian and U.S. officials to ensure that the spread of the virus is contained and to carefully investigate the extent of the threat.  The Wild Fish Conservancy recommends the following steps be taken as soon as possible:

Points of Action:

  1. Immediately halt plans to allow additional net pen salmon aquaculture, particularly for non-native salmonids, on the west coast of North America.  As stocking of non-native species can no longer be justified, production of Atlantic salmon at hatcheries should also cease.
  2. Immediately test freshly-collected and frozen, archival samples for ISAv in sockeye and other Pacific salmonids of wild, hatchery, and net pen origin, as well as marine species that may act as a reservoir for the virus.  As this issue poses a threat to U.S. and Canadian salmon populations, the testing needs to be conducted by impartial U.S. and Canadian labs, using accepted fish health protocols.  We recommend that Dr. James Winton be given oversight of this process and an independent scientific advisory panel be established whose members are not limited to governmental organizations.  Emergency funding to conduct this investigation needs to be set aside by both the Canadian and U.S. government.
  3. Halt and fallow net pen aquaculture farms in British Columbia until the testing results are known.  Current fish production at sites that test positive for ISAv should be humanely destroyed to prevent transfer of the virus to other stocks and species of native fish.
  4. The Department of Fisheries And Oceans, which assumed oversight of aquaculture operations in 2010, needs a mandate that focuses on the preservation of a public resource (wild salmon) rather than one that focuses on developing the aquaculture industry.
  5. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments need to develop and implement better oversight of both land- and sea-based aquaculture, with a focus on pathogen transfer and risks to native species.
  6. Future aquaculture operations should be land-based, where the escape of non-native species can be successfully prevented and the effluent from such operations (which can allow for the transfer of pathogens) can be sterilized if great care is exercised. Although this will raise the cost of product, the increase will reflect the true cost of doing business in an environmentally responsible manner.

In response to this news, the salmon aquaculture industry will herald that they brought much needed jobs to rural British Columbia.  While jobs are clearly needed in such difficult economic times, it is important to recognize that the net pen aquaculture of non-native species presents a threat to the survival of wild salmon populations and the fishing-related jobs which have benefited the region for generations.  These corporations seek to extract a profit from non-native salmon aquaculture while endangering a public resource and a way of life for First Nations people.  It is time that this practice is stopped.

 

 

Wild Fish Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the Northwest region’s wild-fish ecosystems, with over 2,500 members. Wild Fish Conservancy’s staff of over 20 professional scientists, advocates, and educators works to promote technically and socially responsible habitat, hatchery, and harvest management to better sustain the region’s wild fish heritage. For more information, visit us at wildfishconservancy.org or follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/wildfishconservancy.

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