Sockeye salmon returning to the Adams River.

Virus deadly to farmed salmon detected in wild sockeye

Finding sparks fresh calls to close fish farms on B.C. coast

A potentially deadly marine flu virus found on many salmon farms worldwide has now been discovered in wild sockeye salmon off B.C.’s central coast.

Infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) has never before been reported off B.C.’s coast but was found in two of 48 sockeye smolts tested recently, according to SFU fishery statistician Rick Routledge.

“It is highly contagious and lethal to Atlantic salmon,” he said, adding the effects on sockeye are unknown.

The juvenile sockeye came from Rivers Inlet, about 100 kilometres north of a large concentration of salmon farms off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

The virus is the European strain of ISA and researchers suspect it came to B.C. through Atlantic salmon eggs imported from areas such as Iceland before infecting wild stocks.

“The only plausible explanation I can find is that it came from the fish farms,” Routledge said.

The data wasn’t tabled before the Cohen Commission, which last month heard evidence on the potential threat to sockeye from salmon farms, because the test results only just came back, Routledge said.

He tested the batch of underweight fish on the suggestion of biologist Alexandra Morton, who has been at the forefront of anti-aquaculture campaigns and has spent years researching the potential spread of pathogens from fish farms.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association said it has not yet been able to review the findings and said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has yet to confirm them.

An industry representative said B.C. farmed Atlantic salmon have never tested positive for the virus.

If it has arrived here, he said, it would not likely pose as serious a risk to wild salmon.

But Morton said ISA-like symptoms have been reported in B.C. farmed salmon since 2006 and said the virus poses a “cataclysmic biological threat to life” in the North Pacific.

“Now we know for sure that it has hit B.C.,” Morton said, who repeated calls to shut down salmon farms here to protect wild stocks.

“If there is any hope, we have to turn off the source: Atlantic salmon have to be immediately removed.”

ISA can also infect herring and the virus killed millions of salmon at fish farms in Chile a few years ago, devastating the industry there.

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

Just Posted

ELECTION: Langley Township councillor Eric Woodward will run for the BC NDP in Langley East

Will challenge another current Township councillor for the job

ELECTION: Wiens named Green candidate for Langley East

Said party offers “hopeful” alternative to NDP and Liberals

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

OUR VIEW: Election could well backfire on Horgan

Are voters angry enough to cast NDP out, after sending us to the polls in the middle of a pandemic?

Langley Field Naturalists offer free zoom presentations

Group, focused on conservation and education, meet on the third Thursday of each month

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read