June 3, 2012
Dear Mr. Alf-Helge Aarskog, CEO Marine Harvest:
There are serious viral issues with salmon farming in British Columbia that are being suppressed here in Canada that your shareholders should be informed about.
We have found Norwegian Piscine Reovirus associated with HSMI, as well as, the Infectious Salmon Anemia virus mutations HPR5 and HPR7b in fresh Atlantic salmon purchased in British Columbia, Canada markets. Both of the HPR5 and HPR7b mutations of ISA virus have caused large mortalities in salmon. While the BC Salmon Farmers Association and Federal Government Canada deny these viruses are present in BC - it is hard to explain their presence in fresh Atlantic salmon in the markets - someone’s farms must be infected with ISAv and PRv. Are you informed about the potential risk of an ISAv outbreak in BC and the strong negative reaction that the people of British Columbia will have to this?
There is a sequence of events you should be aware of:
• In 2003 Marine Harvest requested Atlantic salmon eggs from an Icelandic hatchery that did not meet Canada’s Fish Health Protection Regulations. Permission was granted.
• In 2009, Marine Harvest began requesting multiple tests for ISAv from the Provincial farm salmon veterinarian, Gary Marty and never imported eggs from Iceland again.
• In 2010, Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share information about viruses with each other, while at the same time they told the Province of BC they would no longer participate in government health audits of their fish.
• In 2004, Fisheries and Ocean Canada got ISAv positive tests in 100% of the most endangered Fraser sockeye stock (Cultus Lake) and never revealed this to the Stò:lō Nation, or the Cohen Commission into the Decline of the Fraser Sockeye
• Your public relations manager for British Columbia, Mr. Clare Backman testified under oath at the Cohen Commission that:
The level of surveys done in the country of origin and then again, the quarantine and follow-up sampling here in British Columbia has been successful in preventing any exotic disease, including this particular one, ISAV. (Cohen Commission, testimony Sept. 7, 2011, page 37)
• And yet we are getting positive results for Norwegian Piscine reovirus in nearly 100% of the Atlantic salmon we have purchased in supermarkets and positive tests for ISA virus.
In a recent survey over the past few weeks of your salmon feedlots in BC, I found many are empty (red squares). I understand the price for farm salmon is so low you might not want to restock, but there are reports of large numbers of dead Atlantic salmon being moved to dumps and there are the growing number of lab tests suggesting the presence of highly virulent strains of ISAv.
The picture below is young wild salmon taken today from outside one of your feedlots - Glacier Falls - near my home. These juvenile wild salmon are suffering from sea lice - a problem Canada denies, but you are familiar with this in Norway and everywhere you operate. Eleven years after I noticed sea lice infestation on BC juvenile salmon near salmon feedlots, seven years after Marine Harvest signed an agreement with several BC environmental companies, and a few weeks after that arrangement collapsed the young BC wild salmon are still being harmed. This is not progress for the people of British Columbia who depend on wild salmon.
Amid rumours of culling, viral outbreaks, quarantined farms and biosecurity risks I watched this eagle grab a dead Atlantic salmon off one of your farms today ,
carry it away,
where several eagles fought over it
and dropped it, leaving behind tissue samples.
While we are not permitted access to "your" salmon, we can buy them in the supermarkets and we are sampling those.
One or more of the Norwegian companies raising Atlantic salmon in BC appear to have ISA, and we are looking for that company.
Is it Marine Harvest?
When salmon farmers talk about "biosecurity" it has become clear to us that you are talking about protecting your fish, not protecting the wild salmon of British Columbia and that is not acceptable to many. The risk to wild salmon is great. Ocean currents spread disease because you use nets to contain your fish. When you move your dead and diseased salmon to dumpsites they can contaminate areas. When you sell fish from a disease outbreak you move viruses into new regions with lakes and rivers, even eagles spread sickness from your salmon feedlots.
With all the empty farms and rumours, Marine Harvest Canada looks like a company in retreat from disease. I am determined to find out why you have so many empty farms, why boats are undergoing disinfection, why composting plants are filling with the stench of culled Atlantic salmon. Thousands are signing a petition to supermarkets that sell BC farm salmon because they don't want to eat your viruses. The Norwegian Piscine reovirus causes heart failure in salmon, it is a durable virus and can be washed down the drain wherever your fish are sold. It could only have come here in Atlantic salmon eggs. Influenza viruses such as ISA are considered a dangerous family of viruses with frightening ability to mutate. Every country that gets it is trying to get rid of it. There is no reason to think BC is going feel any differently. For some reason Canada seems to think ISA can be hidden, they are refusing to follow up on reports in farms, rivers, lakes and supermarkets, but as more and more labs find it Marine Harvest might wish they had behaved differently. I know there is a sense of regret that ISA was not taken more seriously in the early days of the $2 billion Chilean outbreak. Influenzas are traceable and the Chilean outbreak was traced to a hatchery.
So Mr. Alf-Helge Aarskog, we will continue tracking the European viruses that no one in BC will admit are here, because wild salmon are the people's fish in British Columbia and of course we see them as a much greater priority than the profits of your shareholders. Your job is to protect the interests of your shareholders. My intention, though not a job, is to protect the wild salmon of a coast that I call home and love. May I suggest you be completely honest with your shareholders. There are big problems brewing in British Columbia with viruses you are very familiar with, best that you inform them today of the risks.
I am writing to put your shareholders on notice that British Columbia, Canada is the only region in the world where Marine Harvest is raising Atlantic salmon amongst abundant wild Pacific salmon. You can expect a much stronger reaction here to an ISA virus epidemic than anywhere else in the history of Marine Harvest.