Media Release: Deadly virus found in BC’s wild sockeye, same strain as found in European salmon farming industry

Watershed Watch LogoSalmon conservationists call for immediate removal of net-cage farms in BC to protect wild salmon

For Immediate Release
October 17, 2011

VANCOUVER – Salmon conservationists are calling for the removal of farmed salmon from open net-cages in British Columbia in the wake of findings announced today by a Simon Fraser University researcher of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) in wild juvenile sockeye salmon in British Columbia’s central coast. The ISA virus, which has never been identified in the North Pacific, caused catastrophic salmon population crashes most recently in Chile and poses an especially insidious new threat to wild salmon in BC. Research indicates the most plausible source of this virus is the salmon farming industry. This grim news comes on the heels of reams of evidence presented at the Federal Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser Sockeye that definitively show farmed salmon pose major disease risks to wild salmon.

The finding of ISA in BC also demonstrates the federal and provincial government’s inability to monitor and protect BC’s wild salmon from disease threats from the salmon farming industry. Recent testimony at the Inquiry from disease experts Dr. Gary Marty, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and Dr. Stewart Johnson, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) failed to confirm ISA in BC waters. Comprehensive fish health studies on out-migrating Fraser sockeye focusing on disease were only initiated by DFO in 2010, further highlighting deficiencies in regulatory oversight.

“This is a confirmation of heightened disease concerns raised at the Cohen sockeye Inquiry and a condemnation of patronizing government assurances that they are doing their best to protect wild salmon and the public interest,” said Dr. Craig Orr, Executive Director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

This new risk of ISA virus is an unprecedented threat to BC’s wild salmon and one of the most likely sources is via importations of live eggs or feed by the salmon farming industry.

“Net-cage salmon farming has threatened BC’s wild fish populations for too long, and this new threat emphasizes the dire need for the federal government to clear all farms from wild salmon migration routes immediately to prevent amplification and spread of this deadly virus, before it’s too late,” said Watershed Watch biologist, Stan Proboszcz.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Craig Orr, Executive Director, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, (604) 809-2799

Stan Proboszcz, Fisheries Biologist, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, (604) 314-2713

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