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Suspect findings of ISA of concern to BC's salmon farmers

Monday, October 17, 2011

A press release today from Simon Fraser University regarding reports that two wild Pacific salmon have tested positive for Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) is of concern to BC's salmon farmers.

Our members are actively following up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA is reviewing the validity of these publicized but as yet unconfirmed results. The BC Salmon Farmers Association has not yet been able to review the findings.

"Farm-raised Atlantic salmon, unlike their Pacific cousins, are susceptible to ISA, so this is a concern for our operations, but much less likely to be an issue for the different Pacific species[i]," said Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director for Grieg Seafood. "If these results are valid, this could be a threat to our business and the communities that rely on our productive industry."

The results were reportedly found in juvenile Sockeye smolts in Rivers Inlet - an area north of most salmon farms. These fish would not have passed aquaculture operations, but our farmers remain concerned about what this means, and how the disease, which is not native to British Columbia, may have been introduced.

ISAv is a viral disease of salmon but poses no risk to human health.

"Samples from BC's salmon farms are tested regularly for ISA by our regulator's fish health departments and have never found a positive case on a farm. Over 4,700 individual fish samples have been assessed and proven to be negative.  These unconfirmed findings certainly are unexpected, unusual and warrant further investigation," said Clare Backman, Sustainability Director for Marine Harvest Canada.[ii]

Extensive egg importation regulations were implemented years ago to ensure that disease is not imported to BC waters. Experts testified at the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon that these regulations were strong and proactive in reducing the risk of disease. Testing done by third party researchers in the past on wild Sockeye have returned negative results for ISA as well. Biosecurity protocols both within each company and across the industry also protect the health of wild and farmed fish.

"Our fish remain healthy and we are seeing no indication of the presence of ISA," said Hawthorn. "It is very important that our fish remain healthy - to support our ongoing commitment to our businesses, our communities and our environment."

The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon-farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.

Stewart Hawthorn
Managing Director, Grieg Seafood
(250) 202-8588

Clare Backman
Director of Sustainability, Marine Harvest Canada
(250) 850-9554


[i] Pacific salmon species are at relatively low risk should ISA spread to the west coast of North America" (Rolland and Winton 2003). Rolland, J.B., Winton, J.R. 2003.  Relative resistance of Pacific salmon to infectious salmon anaemia virus.  Journal of Fish Diseases 26(9):511-520.

 [ii] http://www.farmfreshsalmon.org/blog/cohen-commission-exhbit-1471-pcr-test-results-infectious-salmon-anaemia-virus-isav-bc