BC farm salmon are testing positive for critically harmful European viruses that are appearing globally wherever Atlantic salmon are farmed.
Wild BC salmon populations exposed to salmon farms are mysteriously collapsing and testing positive for the European viruses. Adjacent populations seem unaffected.
Distribution of virally infected farm salmon through the markets and consumers has the potential to flush these viruses into watersheds throughout Canada and wherever sold, in particular the piscine reovirus which is detected in the fillets.
Government refuses to accept/acknowledge ISAv positive test results from the University of Bergen, the North/South American OIE reference lab for ISA virus (PEI) and the DFO genomic lab in Nanaimo.
The international response protocol to ISA virus in farm salmon is to cull, DFO’s failure to respond to ISAv positive results in farm salmon is a risk to the N. Pacific.
Provincial Agriculture Minister, Don McRae, reports Asian and US markets threatened closure if ISA virus is in BC (Hansard, March 27, 2012).
Allowing these European viruses unfettered access to Pacific salmon is negligent.
Either the farm salmon have to be removed, or government needs to tell us that wild salmon are considered a secondary priority after the needs of the salmon farming industry are met. Government needs to stop telling the public they can have both, because the sheer sloppiness that has allowed these viruses in - is not going to work for anyone.
No government mechanism existed in Canada that was capable of protecting wild salmon in the face of trade pressure demanding Canada maintain an open border to millions of Atlantic salmon eggs on demand by the Norwegian salmon farming corporations operating in BC.
BC salmon farms are located throughout the major wild salmon migration routes of southern and central BC, ensuring transfer of the viruses identified in this brief to wild salmon.
Asian and US legislators consider closing their borders to BC farm salmon in response to ISA virus reports in fall 2011. The evidence suggest Canada is compromising its reputation as a trade partner denying what is obvious - ISA virus is in BC.
Viruses cannot be contained with drugs like sea lice. Salmon farms have to be removed away from wild salmon or we stand to lose the rest of BC wild salmon runs.
Background - trade:
• In 1991, DFO Director General Pat Chamut warned Aaron Sarna – Director of DFO’s Pacific Rim and Trade Policy Division that continued large-scale Atlantic salmon egg imports would introduce biologically and economically devastating exotic diseases, despite this 23 million Atlantic salmon eggs came into BC after 1991. It would appear Chamut was ignored, but correct.
• In 2003, DFO Director-General Laura Richards agreed to demands by the three Norwegian salmon farm companies operating in BC for Atlantic eggs from an Icelandic Hatchery that did not meet the Canadian Fish Health Protection Regulations, she cited threat of trade sanctions if the request was denied.
• DFO and international labs are finding exotic viruses in BC farm and wild salmon, but government stubbornly refuses to acknowledge them, even of the results of their own scientists.
• The Canadian Food Inspection Agency testified to the Cohen Commission on the Decline of the Fraser Sockeye in Dec. 2011 that, if ISA virus is in BC trade for farm salmon could cease.
• This creates enormous international pressure to ignore the science and refuse for to acknowledge ISAv BC,
• Today two three viruses (2 exotic and one endemic) in farm salmon are threatening wild salmon and farm salmon trade.
Background – the viruses:
Salmon Flu – Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv)
• ISAv, an internationally reportable virus, first noted in 1984 in Norway is spreading globally wherever Atlantic salmon are farmed.
• The 4 levels of detection from lowest to highest confidence: histology, PRC test, sequencing and culture. Canada only recognizes culture, citing PCRs as too sensitive and the potential for false positives too damaging to the industry.
• BC provincial vet, Dr. Gary Marty reported over 1,000 reports of “classic” ISA virus lesions (histology) in his farm salmon health audits 2006-2010 (Cohen Commission Exhibit).
• Gary Marty – BC provincial vet, Clare Backman – Marine Harvest and Peter MacKenzie – Mainstream (Cermaq) – Dr. MacWilliams – DFO - all testified under oath that the ISA virus is not in BC
• Then ISA virus was reported in Rivers Inlet (Nov 2011) - Justice Cohen reopened his Inquiry and we learned that DFO has been hiding ISAv positive tests in 100% of the most critical Fraser sockeye stock tested (Cultus).
• The salmon farming industry denies ISAv is in their fish and refuse access to their fish for testing
• 2010 salmon farmers stop importing eggs, terminates BC’s farm salmon health audits, sign MOU to share virus information.
• Spring 2012 we began buying farm Atlantics in markets and find the highly virulent HPR5 and HPR7b ISAv mutations
• The salmon farming industry denies ISAv is in their fish even though these are known Norwegian mutations.
• HPR5 was sequenced from a Vedder River chum salmon.
Salmon Heart Virus - Piscine reovirus (PRV) - Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation
• First discovered in Norway in 1988, causes heart failure in salmon, destroying heart muscle. This distinctive disease was tracked as it spread like “wildfire” through Norway. In 2010 PRV was sequenced and identified as the cause.
• Eggs could not be screened for this virus prior to 2010 because it was unknown.
• Nearly 100% of farm salmon from Vancouver and Victoria supermarkets test positive for Norwegian PRV (sequenced).
• Loblaw states these farm salmon were reared in BC
• Dr. Miller (DFO) testified that she found this virus in Clayoquot farm salmon and Fraser sockeye.
• BC Salmon Farmers Assoc. Director Mary Ellen Walling disagrees saying they do not see the affects of this virus in their fish.
• In contrast, the BC government farm salmon vet, Gary Marty, said he found PRV in 75% of farm salmon tested in 2010,
• This data was not produced to the Cohen Commission, despite specific request for aquaculture and disease information.
• DFO spokesperson, Frank Stanek announced: “Government of Canada scientists have not confirmed the presence of this virus in Canadian fish, despite extensive monitoring and testing”. This is contradicts what Government of Canada scientist Dr. Miller reported to the Cohen Commission.
• Over 90% of Fraser sockeye have been dying in recent years as they swim against the often swift currents of the Fraser River and so presence of PRV, which causes salmon hearts to become “soft and flabby” and triggers heart failure, has to be examined.
• DFO and salmon farming industry spokespeople are not credible in the face of the evidence that PRV is in BC farm salmon.
• Because PVR lodges in the flesh, it is being shipped throughout North America and washing down drains as fillets are washed.
Salmon Leukemia virus (endemic)
• In the 1990s, BC’s first industrial salmon farms reared Chinook that became highly infected with a new pathogen named Salmon Leukemia virus by Dr. Michael Kent, Director of the DFO Pacific Biological Station. Kent never sequenced his virus, making it impossible to trace this salmon farm virus today.
• Kent reports 100% of the sockeye and most of the wild Chinook exposed to salmon leukemia died. Despite this DFO allowed the industry to expand throughout the narrow migratory corridors off eastern Vancouver Island where 1/3 of all BC salmon come and go. The Province of BC, managing the salmon farms, did nothing.
• The Fraser sockeye decline was unstoppable. So many sockeye were dying on the riverbanks DFO tasked their genomics lab run by Dr. Miller of the Pacific Biological Station.
• Miller found strong evidence of a virus with the same characteristics as salmon leukemia in the sockeye. DFO muzzled this lab, prevented Miller from attending scientific meetings on the collapse and prohibited her from speaking to media.
• The discovery of a viral cancer-type disease in BC farm salmon was suppressed, BC and Canada did nothing to protect wild salmon from this – Miller’s lab is working to sequence and fully identify the virus which appears to be a Parvo virus.
• Kent’s technical report to the Cohen Commission inexplicably listed it “low risk,” even though it killed 100% of sockeye exposed.
• In 2008, all the farms with a history of this virus were emptied of Chinook. The 1st sockeye to go to sea without exposure returned in 2010 – a historic 100-year high return.
1. 2003-2004 DFO gets ISAv positive test results in 64/64 Cultus sockeye, 55% of eastern Vancouver Island Chinook, 10/37 salmon from Alaskan waters. This work is never made public, even ISAv is an international “reportable disease.”
2. 2009 the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline in the Fraser Sockeye is called by the federal government of Canada, to investigate the “policies and practices” of DFO and investigate:
“the causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon including, but not limited to, the impact of environmental changes along the Fraser River, marine environmental conditions, aquaculture, predators, diseases, water temperature and other factors that may have affected the ability of sockeye salmon to reach traditional spawning grounds or reach the ocean,” http://www.cohencommission.ca/en/TermsOfReference.php
1. Despite specific mention of “aquaculture” and “diseases” DFO does not reveal their findings of the most lethal salmon virus known (ISAv) in the most endangered Fraser sockeye (Cultus).
2. 2006-2010 BC vet Dr. Marty reports over 1000 “classic” ISAv lesions in farm salmon – (Cohen Exhibit)
3. Beginning in mid- 2009, as the “missing” Fraser sockeye are passing 9 million farm salmon in pens along eastern Vancouver Island Marine Harvest starts requesting 30 tests for ISA virus from Dr. Marty. Prior to this, back to 2006, only 2 such tests were requested.
4. April 2010, the three Norwegian operators in BC, Marine Harvest, Mainstream (Cermaq) and Grieg tell the Province of BC they refuse to participate any longer in the BC farm salmon health audits run by Dr. Marty, but they continue to send samples privately to this vet (Cohen Exhibits).
5. April 2010, the Norwegian companies sign an MOU to share information about viruses with each other.
6. 2010, all the companies suddenly stop importing eggs from Iceland http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/reporting-rapports/egg-oeuf-eng.htm
7. Fall 2011, OIE lab detects European strain ISA virus in 2 Rivers Inlet sockeye smolts.
8. Fall 2011, OIE lab detects European strain ISA virus in Fraser salmon.
9. Dec. 2011, DFO genomic lab testifies at the Cohen Inquiry - ISA virus detected in Fraser sockeye and Clayoquot chinook farms
10. March 2012, OIE lab sequences HPR5 ISAv in wild Vedder River (tributary to Cultus) chum salmon.
11. March 2012, OIE lab detects the virulent HPR5 and HPR7b ISAv strains in Atlantic salmon from Loblaw owned-supermarkets, Loblaw reports these fish were reared in BC netpens.
12. DFO, the Province of BC and the salmon farming industry refuse to accept ISAv is in BC
Given the secrecy exhibited by the salmon farming industry, the Province of BC and DFO, and given the risk associated with introduction of virulent European viruses into the North Pacific and given that there is no chemical method of viral suppression;
if wild salmon are expected to thrive, salmon farms must be removed immediately from waters used by wild salmon.