Lab tests suggest contagious salmon virus may be in B.C.
CTV British Columbia
Published Monday, July 16, 2012 6:31PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, July 16, 2012 6:36PM PDT
An anti-fish-farming activist is raising the alarm over lab results suggesting that a highly contagious virus is showing up in salmon farmed in B.C.
Fish farm critic Alexandra Morton purchased the salmon at B.C. supermarkets and sent the samples to a P.E.I. lab known for its work on infectious salmon anemia, also known as ISA. The results indicate that the ISA genetic sequence was present in some of the samples.
“This is a ticking time bomb,” Morton told CTV News.
She wants immediate actions on the results, urging authorities to, “find out what farm those fish came out of, see what’s still there, kill those fish if they have ISA, check the wild salmon that went through there.”
A Norwegian strain of the same virus devastated fish farms in Chile, but it's not clear whether the disease affects wild salmon.
The lab has sent the results on to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which says it needs more information to confirm cases of ISA. The agency says it has yet to see any positive tests for the virus in B.C., but officials are collecting wild salmon along the coast to test for serious infectious diseases.
However, the CFIA has confirmed the presence of ISA in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, where hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon have had to be killed this year.
Provincial fish pathologist Dr. Gary Marty says he’s skeptical of the lab results in B.C.
“We don't have any sick fish. If we had sick fish, then we’d be more concerned, but without the sick fish we think it might be a false positive result,” he said.
He suggested that if ISA is in B.C., it could be a unique strain that is not as dangerous as its Norwegian counterpart. But he added that he and the CFIA have been following Morton’s work, and they’ll be watching to see if the results are confirmed.
ISA doesn’t pose any risk to humans. Still, if it is confirmed in B.C., it would be a major blow to the industry that already dealt with an outbreak of the Kudoa thyrsites parasite in the spring. That disease turns salmon flesh into mush, and the response to it has been costly.
The B.C. Salmon Farming Association says it hasn’t been advised by the CFIA of any problems with ISA, and no members have reported any unexplained deaths.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee