British Columbia's salmon farms have agreed to have their fish tested for a virus as scientists look into the causes of the 2009 decline of the Fraser River sockeye fishery.

The Cohen Commission heard Wednesday that a genetic signature that may be related to a virus has been linked to the "poor success" of returning Fraser River sockeye.

Kristi Miller, head of molecular genetics at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said she's now planning to do research to determine whether or not the parvovirus is involved.

"We've approached the industry again about testing for this virus and they've agreed to do so," said Miller. "We do know this signature and the virus are found in chinook salmon, but I have not had any samples in Atlantic salmon."

Atlantic salmon are bred on fish farms.

The parvovirus is an infectious viral disease that is passed in the feces of infected animals.

Miller said the virus is also prevalent in sockeye salmon and she's doing some large-scale surveys that focus on hatchery fish, chinook and coho.

Lab tests have not yet proven the virus can cause disease or mortality, she added.

Miller said she talked with industry officials before about testing Atlantic salmon for the virus, but noted veterinarians were not comfortable with testing for a signature.

Miller said she now feels its time to look at Atlantic salmon.

"Now we're working with the parvovirus," Miller said. "We are doing the work whether or not that is associated or causative of this signature."

Once her testimony is done at the commission, said Miller, she'll meet with veterinarians from the fish-farming industry to develop a testing protocol.

Miller also told the commission she hasn't been stopped from publishing any research, even though some activists have suggested she has been muzzled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

She said federal officials have told her not to speak to the public so that she could reserve her comments for the inquiry.

Miller said she was told not to attend one scientific meeting but the demand was made of other colleagues, too, and the integrity of science has been upheld at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.