Fish test results demand follow-up: former minister
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 2:30PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 1, 2012 8:48AM PDT
A former Conservative fisheries minister is calling for action following laboratory results that suggest the presence of a deadly virus in B.C. fish farms.
"This ought to be receiving the most diligent application of intelligence and research by the federal government,” John Fraser told CTV News.
The results were obtained by Alexandra Morton of the Raincoast Research Society, who sent hundreds of Atlantic salmon samples that were farmed in B.C. to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island to test for Infectious Salmon Anemia, or ISA.
For Atlantic salmon, the flu-like virus spreads quickly and can be deadly, though the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it isn’t a risk for humans.
The latest lab results show the genetic sequence for the virus in several of the samples, leaving Morton wondering why the CFIA isn’t investigating her samples further.
“They should find out what farm, kill the fish if they have ISA and check the wild salmon around there,” said Morton.
The CFIA told CTV that certain information is needed to confirm cases of ISA, including how the samples were collected and stored. It also claims the proper processes were not followed with Morton’s samples, and therefore the federal agency is not in a position to provide any meaningful follow up action.
But Morton isn’t the only one slamming the CFIA for not responding to the results. Simon Fraser University biologist Rick Routledge also detected the ISA virus in samples of wild Sockeye fry in Rivers Inlet. The CFIA tested his samples and found them negative.
“They didn't look very carefully, they took badly degraded samples and retested them,” said Routledge. He wants federal authorities to test new samples from Rivers Inlet to make sure the disease isn’t in the region.
The CFIA says the federal and provincial governments have tested over 5,000 wild and farmed salmon in British Columbia for ISA, and none have ever tested positive. It also recently launched a new salmon surveillance plan to test 5,000 wild salmon off B.C.’s west coast over the next two years.
An ISA outbreak this month in a Newfoundland fish farm led to the destruction of 500,000 salmon. This follows an earlier outbreak this year in Nova Scotia that also lead to hundreds of thousands of fish being destroyed.
The $800 million aquaculture industry in B.C. says it’s confident that farmed fish are healthy and free of disease. The industry also accuses Morton of spreading fear and misinformation.