One of the salmon sampled that researchers said tested positive for ISA virus. Federal officials say their tests have all come back negative.

No sign of virus in tested salmon: CFIA

Federal lab contradicts previous findings of Infectious Salmon Anemia

Federal testing has refuted claims that several wild salmon sampled in B.C. were infected with a deadly virus that has ravaged farmed fish stocks elsewhere in the world.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said its tests at the national reference lab did not find any Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus in the samples.

“All the sampling done to this point in time is negative,” said Con Kiley, a veterinarian and acting director of the CFIA’s aquatic animal health program.

“There have been no confirmed cases of ISA in wild or farmed salmon in B.C.”

The CFIA retested all 48 salmon originally sampled by SFU researchers as well as hundreds more sampled at the same time that weren’t initially tested.

It also tested other samples independent biologist Alexandra Morton collected and claimed were infected.

Kiley said the results were consistent with the findings of a lab in Norway that also tested the samples.

He said some of the results must be considered inconclusive because of the poor quality of the samples, which had been kept in freezers for an extended period.

More tests are continuing, he said, adding the CFIA and Department of Fisheries and Oceans felt it important to release the findings so far.

Asked when the CFIA might be able to say with confidence whether or not B.C. is ISA-free, he said it may not be possible.

“‘All clear’ is not something we could probably ever say,” Kiley said. “It’s very hard to prove a negative. All we can do is state that we have not found a virus in all the sampling that’s been done already.”

Kiley said the CFIA is still assessing whether it needs to expand sampling of Pacific salmon as a result of the investigation.

Morton, who suspects fish farms imported the virus with Atlantic salmon eggs and  transmitted it to wild stocks, said she’s not convinced by the CFIA results.

“I still remain very concerned,” she said. “If they’re giving British Columbia a clean bill of health because the samples they looked at were too degraded, what kind of confidence can I have in that?”

Morton wants a much-expanded independent program set up to sample and test for ISA in B.C. salmon.

Reports of the first-ever West Coast ISA infections had rocked the B.C. salmon farm industry. It also raised concern for wild stocks – not just in B.C. but from U.S. officials in Alaska and Washington State.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association executive director Mary Ellen Walling welcomed the results.

“We’re pleased to see the thorough way CFIA is following up, but are dismayed at the way campaigners used this to create fear about our operations,” she said.

The “inflammatory” unconfirmed report announced by SFU Oct. 17 seemed intended to “create as much hype as possible,” Walling said, adding it had potential to disrupt markets for B.C. salmon farms.

NDP federal fisheries critic Fin Donnelly called for more sampling and accused the federal government of being too slow to react to the reports of infections.

“This scare should serve as a wake-up call,” he said, adding it’s the wrong time for a planned $57-million cut to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans budget.

He wants the federal government to force fish farms to phase out open-net pens and move to closed containment systems, adding that would eliminate the potential of farms to transit disease to wild stocks.

ISA has mainly been a disease of farmed Atlantic salmon. The European strain can kill up to 90 per cent of infected Atlantic salmon but it’s thought to be less dangerous to sockeye.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: A one-person Terry Fox walk by Langley City resident

Lois Mcleay didn’t have to worry about social distancing

VIDEO: gunshots fired outside Langley gas station

Two people involved left scene uninjured, police said

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

VIDEO: Art in the time of COVID: how a Langley exhibition managed it

Holding the charitable event depended on which phase of restrictions were in effect

Three TWU grads named to first ‘Fellows’ program at Langley-based university

Program selects promising recent graduates to participate in a year-long paid internship

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Most Read