Tag Archives: ISA virus

Newfoundland Salmon Farm Quarantined due to Suspected ISA Virus Outbreak


Read this story from FIS (Fish Information & Services trade publication), reporting that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has quarantined a salmon farm off the coast of Newfoundland due to a suspected outbreak of the deadly Infectious Salmon Anemia virus. (July 6, 2012)

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has quarantined an fish farm on the south coast of Newfoundland due to a suspected outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA).

Newfoundland and Labrador veterinarians detected the virus during routine testing at the site, explained Miranda Pryor, the executive director of the NL Aquaculture Industry Association.

“In the ocean, there’s a lot of naturally occurring viruses and bacteria and other things that can impact our farming situations,” said Prior, CBC News reports. “And unfortunately, it appears that this may be the case at this site right now, maybe impacted by something it caught from the wild.”

While ISA is harmless to humans, it can kill up to 90 per cent of the salmon it infects, depending on the strain.

Prior added that the aquaculture pen suspected of containing infected fish has been quarantined to minimise the risk of spreading the virus throughout the facility.

This is the first time a fish farm has been quarantined in Newfoundland and Labrador, she highlighted.

CFIA has taken samples that it will hand over to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for testing. Obtaining these test results could take weeks. If ISA is confirmed, CFIA may take further action to obstruct a possible outbreak.

Although the agency is refusing at this time to release the name of the company that runs the quarantined facility, Cooke Aquaculture assures it is not one of its sites.

Two weeks ago, evidence of another outbreak of ISA was found at Cooke Aquaculture’s fish farms in Nova Scotia which CFIA has been investigating. The company documented many cases of ISA and engaged in the killing of affected fish; affected facilities were put under quarantine until all fish were removed from the site and all pens, cages and equipment were cleaned and disinfected.

In May, CFIA quarantined a third salmon farm in the province of British Columbia in just two weeks over fears about the presence of haematopoietic necrosis virus (IHN).

Read original article: http://www.fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?monthyear=&day=6&id=53635&l=e&special=&ndb=1%20target=


BREAKING: Alex Morton Claims to Have Found ISAv in Farmed Salmon Sold in BC Supermarkets


Read this blog post from Alexandra Morton, claiming that she and her research team have found ISA virus in farmed Atlantic salmon sold at three T&T Supermarket stores in Vancouver. (March 13, 2012)

Today I received ISA virus positive test results from the international ISA virus OIE Reference lab in eastern Canada.

The ISA virus positive fish were 5 Atlantic salmon I purchased from three different T & T supermarkets around the lower mainland and one chum salmon from the Vedder River. There is no evidence ISA virus harms humans.

These samples were in much better condition than the Rivers Inlet sockeye smolts that tested positive last year, and so further testing is underway to sequence the virus. Once completed this will better inform us of where this virus is coming from.

When my colleagues and I got ISA virus positive test results last December, the BC Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Don McRae said: “Reckless allegations based on incomplete science can be devastating to these communities and unfair to the families that make a living from the sea. Since Premier Clark is currently on a trade mission to China, I have personally asked her to reassure our valued trading partners that now as always BC can be relied upon as a supplier of safe, sustainable seafood..” Now we have ISA virus positive results from a Chinese supermarket chain in BC. The gills were intact in these fish and from speaking with the people behind the seafood counter we believe these fish were reared in BC marine feedlots. The CFIA will be able to tell us where they came from, or perhaps the market will let us know. If these fish were shipped in from outside BC they should not have had the gills left in them.

Read full post: http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/alexandra_morton/2012/03/isa-virus-in-bc-supermarkets-and-vedder-river.html


Breaking: ISA Salmon Virus Outbreak Suspected at Nova Scotia Fish Farm


Read this story from the Winnipeg Free Press on a suspected outbreak of the deadly ISAv salmon virus at a Cook Aquaculture open net pen salmon farm in Nova Scotia. (Feb 17, 2012)

HALIFAX – Cooke Aquaculture says it has a suspected outbreak of the infectious salmon anemia virus at one of its fish farms in Nova Scotia.

In a statement today, the seafood company says it destroyed fish contained in two cages at one of its fish farming sites after routine tests and surveillance of its stocks on Feb. 10.

But the company declined to say where the outbreak is suspected.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is investigating, but it too declined to say where the suspected outbreak is located.

Con Kiley, director of the agency’s aquatic animal health program, says the location can’t be made public due to privacy concerns.

Kiley says the virus is not a human health or food risk, but according to the agency’s website, it can kill up to 90 per cent of infected fish, depending on its strain.

He says tests will be conducted at a federal lab in Moncton, N.B., to confirm whether the virus is present.

Read original article: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/suspected-outbreak-of-salmon-virus-at-fish-farming-operation-in-nova-scotia-139530833.html





Salmon Politics and the Egg Trade


The source of the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAv) now being found in BC’s wild salmon is almost certainly from imported Atlantic salmon eggs, the international trade that has provided coastal salmon farms with most of their stock. The salmon farming industry, of course, is still denying that ISAv is here, although evidence given at the Cohen Commission’s extraordinary three days of hearings on December 15th, 16th and 19th essentially obliterates that defence.

Of four labs testing for ISAv in wild fish samples, the only one seemingly unable to find it is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s facility in Moncton, New Brunswick, a lab whose detection capability is known by experts to be notoriously insensitive and inconsistent – an inaccuracy compounded by attempting to use degraded tissue samples. Research tests by a reputable lab in 2004 found 100 percent infection in Cultus Lake sockeye – inexplicably never pursued by federal agencies responsible for the health of wild salmon. Testimony from Dr. Kristi Miller showing genomic markers in archaic samples of BC wild salmon indicates that ISAv has been here since 1986.

Documents presented at the Cohen Commission suggest that the arrival of ISAv coincides with the early importation of Atlantic salmon eggs to West Coast salmon farms. Supporting this connection is a recorded litany of warnings from experts in BC’s Ministry of Environment (MOE) and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), all alarmed about the inherent danger of importing exotic diseases to the West Coast ecology through Atlantic salmon eggs. This evidence is worth noting.

  • 1982: representatives of Canada’s government meet with Norwegian and Canadian business interests to consider “alternative approaches to inspection and certification of salmon culture facilities” for the importation of Atlantic salmon material from Norway.
  • 1984: Canada’s DFO approves limited importation of Atlantic salmon material, an event that is not announced publicly.
  •  1985: 300,000 eggs are imported, subject to a “Draft Importation of Salmonids Policy” requiring a 12 month quarantine. But Dave Narver of MOE expresses concern to his Assistant Deputy Minister about the policy. “I am getting increasingly anxious about our importing of Atlantic eggs,” he writes. “My concern is shared by many of my colleagues in both provincial and federal agencies. The fish health measures agreed to jointly by DFO and ourselves in the fall of 1984 are not foolproof. They are based on statistical sampling, so we are taking a risk when it comes to the introductions of virus. That means a risk to the nearly one-billion-dollar wild salmonid fisheries of British Columbia.” An additional 130,000 Atlantic salmon eggs are imported from Scotland.
  • 1986: Narver reiterates his concerns to Pacific Aqua Foods about an unsigned and non-public policy. “We are deeply concerned with the fact that the risk of exotic diseases is dependent on both the number of imports and their size. Government has made a commitment to support aquaculture, but surely not at the risk of a nearly $1 billion resource in the wild salmon fisheries of British Columbia. The direction the aquaculture industry wants us to go will insure that we import unwanted diseases that can impact on government hatcheries and wild stocks.” Narver sends a similar letter of concern to Stolt Sea Farm Canada Inc. “To start with a general comment, I am disappointed with what appears to be the prevailing attitude of a number of companies, that fish health regulations to protect wild stocks are great, but if we continue the way the aquaculture industry seems to dictate, we can expect to introduce new diseases.” 1,144,000 eggs are imported from Scotland.
  • 1987: Federal-Provincial Policy for the Importation of Live Salmonids is signed, but quarantine time is reduced to 4 months to reduce the industry’s cost of dealing with waste water. Pat Chamut of DFO expresses a trade concern. “If challenged in court over denial of any imports, what is the legal likelihood we would be successful in denying imports?” 1,281,000 eggs are imported from Scotland and Washington State.
  • 1990: Salmon farmers in the US claim Canada’s import restrictions are a trade barrier. Chamut reiterates his concerns to the Policy Division of Pacific Rim and Trade. “Continued large-scale introductions from areas of the world including Washington State, Scotland, Norway and even eastern Canada would eventually result in the introduction of exotic disease agents of which the potential impact on both cultured and wild salmonids in BC could be both biologically damaging to the resource and economically devastating to its user groups.”
  • 1991: Numerous warnings are written by DFO and MOE officials, all concerning the dangers of importing diseases from foreign salmon eggs – a danger compounded by trade agreements allowing the salmon farming industry to import larger numbers of eggs. Narver’s letter from MOE to DFO is typical for 1991. “The proposed revisions not only open the window indefinitely but essentially allow for unlimited numbers of eggs. I know your Department argues that this has to done to avoid a Free Trade ruling.” Subsequent to these warnings comes a 1991 letter from BC Packers’ Director of Aquaculture to DFO. “As we have no other disease-free source available [other than Iceland] anywhere in the world, I am requesting that you reconsider your position, particularly in the light of the expected change in the DFO regulations.” Regulations are duly relaxed and from 1991 to 2010 at least 23 million eggs are imported into BC waters, mostly from sources other than Iceland.

This evidence from the Cohen Commission confirms that international sources of eggs were known to be rife with disease and that the aquaculture industry was perfectly willing to import these eggs, despite known risks and repeated warnings. Given trade agreements and the political leverage of the salmon farming industry to reduce precautionary regulations – the direction it “seems to dictate”, in Dave Narver’s damning words – the arrival of ISAv and other exotic diseases in BC’s marine ecology was inevitable.


Salmon Virus Cover-up About Protecting Markets, Not Fish


Judge Bruce Cohen obviously thought that recent evidence of the Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISAv) in BC’s wild salmon was serious enough to warrant a reconvening of his Commission of inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of Fraser River sockeye. The three days of exceptional December hearings were revelatory, confusing and clarifying. We have ISAv in BC waters but we don’t have disease. We have different labs getting positive and negative test results on the same fish samples. We have critically important research curtailed just when such vital information is most needed. We have intimations of openness in a practice of obstruction and censure. And we have huge financial benefits accruing to corporate interests if BC’s farmed and wild salmon can be marketed free of the stigma of disease.

The salmon farming industry has been habitually skewing information to bolster its practices and image – it’s been doing this for decades. And, as recent history has revealed, the credibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been compromised by its conflicting mandates of managing wild salmon and promoting salmon farming. Now we discover that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has its own conflicting mandates of suppressing pathogens while enhancing marketing opportunities for fish products. Consequently, when a viral disease is reported and the commercial value of fish is threatened, the CFIA assumes a defensive position by questioning the findings of the testing labs, by re-testing the degraded samples of infected fish with its notoriously inaccurate technology, and then recording “inconclusive” results as “negative”.

This strategy is evident in an e-mail from a CFIA executive, Joseph Beres, to his colleagues, congratulating them on a conference call to the media that was intended to quell concerns about allegations of ISAv in BC salmon. “It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour,” he writes, “and this is because of the very successful performance of our spokes at the Tech Briefing yesterday…Congratulations! One battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war also.” This is the response of a promoter concerned about reputation and market, not the response of a scientist concerned about the danger of an ecosystem-threatening virus.

This might explain why the CFIA didn’t submit to the Cohen Commission evidence of ISAv in more than 100 wild salmon a decade ago. And why DFO advised its molecular geneticist, Dr. Kristi Miller, to curtail her research on ISAv – precisely the opposite of how prudence and science should respond to such an urgent situation.

Indeed, the Cohen Commission has exposed a systemic history of closeted secretiveness, hidden motives and contrived deception, all exposed since the initial October revelation that ISAv has been found in wild BC salmon. Dr. Sally Goldes, a 17-year fish health section head for the BC Environment Ministry, testified during the reconvened Cohen inquiry that “current Canada Fish Health Protection Rules do not provide a high level of regulatory security against the introduction of ISAv into British Columbia.” To underscore her concern, she noted, “If you really look closely at the regulations, from a scientific basis, there is not the high degree of protection that the government, and particularly DFO, states that they have.” In her opinion, the DFO and CFIA press conference that announced no ISAv in BC “was entirely premature.” In other words, ISAv could have leaked into BC waters from Atlantic egg sources used by salmon farms, and government agencies are systematically hiding that possibility.

Dr. Kristi Miller, one of the key DFO scientists in this process, took the initiative to do her own testing on wild and farmed salmon. She concluded that an ISA virus, or something that is 95 percent similar to the strain afflicting farmed Atlantic salmon in Norway, Scotland, Maritime Canada and Chile, is present in BC waters. And her review of DFO’s archival fish samples shows that markers for ISAv have been present in BC since 1986 – shortly after Atlantic salmon were first farmed here. A study by Dr. Molly Kibenge suggested that ISAv was here in 2004. Despite a UN convention that requires “evidence or suspicion” of ISAv to be reported, this was never done. Neither was evidence of ISAv reported to the initial phase of the Cohen Commission hearings.

Complicating the issue is a technical definition of “disease”. The CFIA takes the position that a suite of characteristics are needed to classify ISAv as such. Dr. Miller recognized this criterion in her testimony to the Commission when she said, “And obviously we have not established that [ISAv] causes disease.” Without evidence of dying or debilitated fish, there is no “disease”. But evidence does exist. A postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Miller, Brad Davis, notes ample data suggesting “that the virus is causing enough damage to elicit a strong response in salmon…. Therefore, we cannot at this point assume that this virus does not cause disease in these fish.” Regular reports cite adult Fraser River salmon inexplicably dying as they migrate upstream, sometimes just days before spawning. Cultus Lake salmon have long been exhibiting the same strange behaviour. Until now, no explanation has been available.

The CFIA has pledged to investigate by subjecting 7,700 salmon to more than 20,000 tests over the next two years. But this does not promise to clarify the mystery of BC’s disappearing wild salmon. The CFIA’s self-declared “surveillance objectives are to determine the absence/presence of three diseases of trade significance… [and] to support international trade negotiations by making [a] disease-freedom declaration that will stand international scrutiny.” If the CFIA’s version of science is to start with a trade-friendly conclusion and then research to support it, this does not bode well for BC’s wild salmon and the entire marine ecology founded on this iconic fish.


100% ISA Virus Infection Rate in 100 Cultus Lake Sockeye Revealied in Covered-up 2004 DFO Report


Read this bombshell report from the Chilliwack Times on the revelation of a 2004 report that shows a 100% ISA virus infection rate in 100 sockeye samples taken from Cultus Lake in 2004. A must-read!

“A seven-year-old unpublished report indicates 100 per cent of a
sample of Cultus Lake sockeye tested positive for a potentially deadly
salmon virus. The undated report (likely from 2004) produced at a
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) station in Nanaimo, tested wild
Pacific salmon-sockeye, chinook and pink- from various locations,
including Cultus Lake.

Twenty-two per cent of the salmon, or 117
out of more than 500 samples tested positive for ISA, with more than
half of the positive tests from the Fraser River. And more than
half of all the positive test results came from the 64 out of 64 samples
of Cultus Lake sockeye found with ISA virus.” (Dec. 6, 2011)

Read article: http://www.chilliwacktimes.com/news/Shocking+Cultus+sockeye+report/5816391/story.html


BREAKING: Leaked Report Reveals DFO Cover-Up of 2004 ISA Virus Discovery in BC


Read this bombshell story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on a recently leaked Department of Fisheries and Oceans report which shows ISA virus was found in several species of BC and Alaskan wild salmon in 2004. The report was deliberately covered up by DFO and is only now coming to light, years later.

“A 2004 draft manuscript, leaked out of Canada’s Department of
Fisheries and Oceans, indicates that the deadly infectious salmon anemia
virus was identified eight years ago in coho, pink and sockeye salmon
taken from southern British Columbia, Southeast Alaska and Bering
Sea waters. Testing done in 2002 and 2003 ‘lead us to conclude that an
asymptomatic form of infectious salmon anemia occurs among some species
of wild Pacific salmon in the north Pacific,’ said the manuscript. But a senior official at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
recently rejected a request to submit the manuscript for publication.” (Nov. 29, 2011)

Read article: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/connelly/article/A-smoking-salmon-report-Was-deadly-fish-virus-2309866.php


Fresh Evidence of ISA Virus in BC’s Wild Salmon – Alexandra Morton’s Letter to Fisheries Minister


Read Alexandra Morton’s latest blog post, alerting Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to the biologist’s recent discovery of more wild BC salmon infested with the deadly Infectious Salmon Anemia virus.

“Dear Minister Ashfield,

I would suggest you stop treating us like fools. Your attached letter is grossly inadequate. Download Initial Request for 2011-001-03100.pdf (440.4K)
Show us your Moncton test results because your lab is the only one that
cannot find ISA virus. I would also suggest you stop obsessing over
the quality of the River Inlet samples and go out and get your own
samples. You have an entire department at your disposal.

Yesterday I received yet another set of positive ISAv results for salmon of the Fraser River. Download Report231111[13].pdf (15.9K)

You can stop calling the 1st Norwegian tests a “negative” result. Be
more accurate and call them what they are – a weak positive. Download Report 021111.pdf (22.0K) You can’t wave a magic wand and make black white.” (Nov. 25, 2011)

Read full blog post: http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/alexandra_morton/2011/11/open-letter-to-minister-ashfield.html?mid=539

Alexandra Morton testing wild salmon for ISAv on the Puntledge River earlier this week

Shades of Green: ISAv – Threat, Fear, Mystery and Warning


The recent news that the European strain of Infectious Salmon Anemia virus had been found in two Rivers Inlet sockeye smolts sent a shiver of fear throughout the North Pacific region. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) dutifully notified Japan, Russia and the United States, the countries with an economic interest in the safety, security and health of wild salmon and other marine fish. The US states of Oregon, California, Idaho and Alaska all expressed alarm, one defining the situation as an “emergency”.

The immediate panic subsided with the CFIA’s recent announcement that re-testing of the sockeye samples did not find ISAv. Were the samples now too old? Had they been improperly stored? Could the original tests, done by one of the world’s reference labs for ISAv, have been faulty? Were the CFIA’s tests faulty? Why had the many tests done on farmed fish not detected ISAv? Why had the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) not been testing for the disease in wild salmon? Why did no federal agency have a protocol for responding to an ISAv emergency?

As this mystery deepens, the undisputed evidence of ISAv as an international threat was made abundantly clear. BC and its Norwegian salmon farming corporations, together with Canada’s DFO, are playing a high-risk game with extremely serious consequences. Should protective measures fail, an unleashed exotic virus in the North Pacific would be a serious international incident with immeasurable consequences and inestimable costs. Is the gamble worth it?

Meanwhile, more positive tests have been reported for the European strain of ISAv in Pacific wild salmon on the Harrison River, a tributary of the Fraser that is 600 km from Rivers Inlet. A group of worried people led by Alexandra Morton netted a dead, unspawned coho salmon. It’s heart and gill tissue tested positive for ISAv. So did the gill tissue of a “severely jaundiced” Fraser River chinook and a “silver-bright” chum salmon. Finding the virus only in the gills of these fish suggests they were recently infected with ISA (alexandramorton.typepad.com).

Undoubtedly, these tests will be contested. But, as Alexandra Morton writes in her blog (Ibid.), the arrival of ISAv is inevitable.

“I don’t know how no one saw this coming…Every country with salmon farms has taken this path. I am so exhausted with trying to explain this to Ministers, bureaucrats, streamkeepers, environmentalists, fishermen. People just don’t want to believe it…

Look, it is simple. Salmon farms break the natural laws and viruses, bacteria and parasites are the beneficiaries of this behaviour. If you move diseases across the world and brew them among local pathogens, in an environment where predators are not allowed to remove the sick – you get pestilence. There is no other outcome.

The reason I can see this, and where we are headed, is not because I am particularly bright, it is because I have taken great care not to allow myself to become dependent on anyone’s money. I am not climbing any social ladder. I don’t want to be a politician, academic, or CEO of a ‘save the environment’ company. I just want to be able to live between Kingcome and Knight Inlet and not watch it die.”

Her indictment rings too true to be refuted. The salmon farming corporations owe their allegiance to shareholders perpetually hungry for higher profits. In the particular case of ISAv, they are creating a false assurance that will eventually release its viral tragedy. Politicians in power – local, provincial and federal – are busy juggling image, votes and economic considerations. Government bureaucrats and employees are reluctant to rile their political masters. And the majority of the public don’t have the attention or imagination to comprehend and stop this promised catastrophe. The result will be yet another environmental mess.

Are we now witnessing the beginning of this shadowed future? We don’t yet know for certain. As Morton writes so candidly in her blog, she had the premonition of defeat, believing she has “failed in the mission that has consumed my life. I wish now I had put the blinders on and continued studying whales, because it does not matter how the fish die, whether by sea lice, or viruses, they will be dead.”

If the fish die, her failure will be our failure. Because we live on a planet in which all the parts are interconnected, when we threaten or diminish wild salmon, we do the same to ourselves. Their vulnerability is our vulnerability. Or, to put it more ominously, as we dismantle nature’s services, corporate services will rise to fill the void. So the gracious bounty that once was given freely will then be subject to price and profit, a cost that we will pay in currency, dignity and servitude. If ISA is now brewing in our West Coast waters, it will be a classical example of how, piece by piece and place by place, we are dismantling the ecology of our planet. Such a “pestilence” will mark an erosion of our innocence and freedom, a diminishment of ourselves that could have been prevented if only we had possessed a modicum of perspective and caution.

Morton suggests a strategy for prevention and hope. Get the salmon farms out of our marine environment. Now. Immediately. Eliminate the only known source of ISAv and the unnatural concentrations of fish that breed mutations and virulence. This may also mean closing hatcheries for wild fish, too. Should the virus be here, then maybe – just maybe – it will dilute and dissipate in nature’s forgiveness. And if it is not here, the scare was real and instructive, a useful reminder that our folly is as far away as a single virus.