Here is the story from salmon biologist Alexandra Morton:
Infectious Salmon Anemia virus has been found in two young sockeye salmon. Sheer reckless, negligent behaviour has loosed a highly infectious fish farm influenza virus into the North Pacific. I have been told over and over by industry and government that this could not happen, but they were wrong. No one has any idea what Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAV) will do in the North Pacific. We were told that it could not infect Pacific salmon, that enough tests had been done to assure us that it was not here and would not get here. Well here it is in two young sockeye. Are they the only 2 salmon in the North Pacific with ISA virus, or are they among 100s, or millions? No one knows yet. Government and the salmon farming industry are at best dangerously incompetent. Humanity is well aware that moving viruses around has caused enormous misery and death. We make horror movies about this, and yet there is no sign of a learning curve here. We have put a highly infectious marine influenza virus into the ocean we depend on. So incredibly foolish.
Just so we know what we’re dealing with here, Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAV) is endemic to Atlantic salmon and the only Atlantic Salmon on the west coast of the Americas reside in fish farms who have denied vigorously that any of their salmon, or the eggs they import, have any ISAV and, alternatively, if they did have this pernicious disease it could not spread to any species of Pacific salmon.
Ms. Morton has been warning for some time that this might just not be so but the fish farmers and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans stoutly denied it, especially to the Cohen Commission.
Back to Alexandra Morton.
In May, Dr. Rick Routledge of Simon Fraser University noticed the Rivers Inlet sockeye smolt out-migration was an exceptionally small run. Rick has been studying these sockeye to figure out why the Rivers Inlet sockeye, once Canada’s second most prolific sockeye salmon run, has declined to an average over the last 5 years of less than 1% of its historic abundance. When we talked this spring I suggested testing for ISA virus, just to rule it out.
The results came back last week: 2 out of 48 smolts were infected with the EUROPEAN STRAIN OF INFECTIOUS SALMON ANEMIA VIRUS (ISAV). The shock of this diagnosis remains.
The test was done by Dr. Fred Kibenge of the lab designated as the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) reference lab for ISAV.
The ISA virus has appeared everywhere that industrial Atlantic salmon farming has moved in. It killed 70% of the farm salmon in Chile in 2007, but there are no natural wild salmon in Chile. It was found in 1984 in Norway and is now in Scotland, Ireland, Faroe Islands, Eastern Canada, and Chile. No country has ever gotten rid of it, probably because they never turn off the source. This is the first time ISA virus has been set loose into wild Pacific salmon populations. That it was found in a Rivers Inlet sockeye smolt 100km away from the nearest salmon farm is ominous. Is it everywhere? Is it in herring, does it infect oolichans? No one knows.
Let me re-state a statement Damien Gillis and I have made throughout this ongoing debate: large corporations care nothing about the environment only shareholder profits. Why should they? Their mandate is the company bottom line.
THAT’S WHY WE HAVE DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS AND DEPARTMENTS OF ENVIRONMENT.
This is a deadly serious problem in the literal sense – now that this pernicious disease is in out waters it’s likely here top stay. More and more of our wild salmon will die and likely in large bunches.
Let’s call this what it is: deceit on the part of the company and the three government departments involves – the provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and the federal Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and The Environment. These three government watchdogs have been irresponsible and perhaps even criminally irresponsible, although one can hardly expect Stephen Harper’s Minister of Justice to lay charges. In any kind of responsible government, both federal ministers would resign.
Allow me to add another important ingredient into this mess: The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has also got the mandate to promote fish farms!
Yes, you read that correctly – the same department that has the mandate to protect our wild fish also is charged with promoting the cause of this terrible tragedy. Former federal minister Gail Shea went to fish farm conventions to urge them to come to BC! And no, I’m not making this up.
This finding by Dr. Fred Kibenge places a very heavy burden of Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen as he makes his findings, for how can be believe any contentious point made by governments and fish farms when they’ve been caught lying?
Credibility is what court cases and hearings are all about. Mr. Justice Cohen has now heard the clock strike 13 – how can he ever trust the clock again!
What should happen is obvious. As happened a few years ago with mad cow disease, all farmed fish must promptly be destroyed. Why should farmed fish be treated any differently than farmed salmon?
I must end with a note about Alexandra Morton. I know Alex and I can tell you that the abuse she has been subject to beggar’s description. Vilified by governments and industry, threatened with jail short of funding, she has stayed the course. She is a remarkable woman who is owed a huge debt of gratitude by all who care about the soul of British Columbia – the Pacific Salmon.