UPDATE AUGUST 13: Globe and Mail picks up the story
The Provincial farm salmon vet suggests "limited outbreaks" could be good for the herring. However, he admits he has no information on this outbreak, so does not know if it is limited.
In a recent paper co-published by DFO, researchers found that the virus VHS can infect Atlantic salmon and "spillback" to infect and kill herring. It is unclear how this dynamic has been included in Dr. Marty's statement to the Globe and Mail.
Quote from the paper:
"Transmission of VHSV from Atlantic salmon to sympatric Pacific herring was indicated by 100% mortality...." in 3/4 trials.
UPDATE: August 12, 2013,
DFO has answered my request that they test the herring from northeastern Vancouver Island. They said they have not received any reports of a die-off, but their crew in the region is going to try to get samples if possible. I appreciate their response and I will be following up with them to see how it goes. I attribute the fast response to all of you who wrote to them. Thank you.
On August 10, 2013 these herring were found off northeastern Vancouver Island along the shoreline of Sointula, Malcolm Island. This is a re-occurring event, but this is most severe symptoms that I have seen. In past, the fins of the herring have been bloodshot, but now it is also their bellies. They are bleeding from beneath their scales, many are bleeding in their eyeballs. They are swimming with tiny sockeye, very likely from the Nimpkish River, and they are food for the chinook and coho runs now passing through the area.
I am writing to Mark Saunders, DFO Manager, Salmon and Freshwater Ecosystems, Pacific Biological Station, firstname.lastname@example.org to ask that DFO figure out what is wrong with these fish as the symptoms are extreme enough that it seems likely other fish could be infected if this is caused by a virus.
If DFO will test these fish, and produce those test results so we can evaluate them, we will have the opportunity to decide, as a society, if we want to try to assist the herring to better health.
I hope that you will join me in writing to Mr. Saunders as I expect he is not entirely free to pursue this without our request. I have come to this opinion based on Cohen Commission exhibits wherein DFO scientists have expressed frustration in their ability to research viruses.
Herring are essential to life on the BC coast. I no longer believe it is useful to ask DFO to protect wild fish, we will need to do that ourselves, however, within DFO there are remarkable scientists who can tell us exactly what is wrong with these herring. We pay their salaries and we are instructing them to figure out what is wrong with these herring and to get back to us with verifiable results.