Some B.C.-farmed salmon is reaching store shelves with a parasite that can liquefy the fish’s flesh into an unappetizing goop, CTV News has learned.

Consumer Dale Reynolds recently picked up a salmon fillet from Costco, but the texture made him think twice about serving it to his family.

“I started noticing it had indentations in it,” Reynolds said. “Started taking a closer look and noticing these pit holes that were in it and wondering what was going on, what was eating at it. It just didn’t look normal.”

Marine Harvest Canada, B.C.’s largest fish farming company, confirmed to CTV News that the fish was infested with the Kudoa thyrsites parasite – the second most common parasite in farmed salmon, which causes a condition known as “soft flesh” syndrome.

“It’s unacceptable that someone was able to purchase a piece of this salmon,” spokesman Ian Roberts said. “It’s rare that someone would find this in the market.”

The parasite doesn’t pose a health risk to humans, but can render fish flesh into a jelly-like consistency, according to the Pure Salmon Campaign.

Kudoa can also survive long after the salmon is killed, and the parasite’s longevity is making it a widespread problem in B.C. Marine Harvest alone spent $12 million last year to clear out infected fish and provide refunds for tainted products, and there are estimates that Kudoa affects 20 to 50 per cent of all salmon farmed in the province.

The industry is currently studying the microscopic menace to protect farmed salmon, but experts say the greater risk is the impact the parasite could have on fish in the wild.

“What we don’t know is the magnitude and impact on the larger ecosystem,” said John Volpe, a University of Victoria environmental studies professor. “This parasite is like this time bomb inside the fish.”

Costco didn’t respond to a CTV News interview request, but a manager told an undercover reporter that the problem is not uncommon.

“We get this in one out of every 200 fillets,” he said. “Some are more mushy than others. Some you pick them up and they’re like paste… once every couple of days we probably get a few like this.”

Stores generally try to catch the problem before affected fish can be sold, and it’s unclear how often the salmon make it home with B.C. buyers.

Reynolds said he sent photos of his fish fillet to Costco and was given his money back.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee

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