Two companies, three salmon farms and a whole lot of uncertainty — that’s the situation in British Columbia’s salmon farming industry these days. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has placed three farms under quarantine because of tests that showed evidence of the IHN (haematopoietic necrosis) virus.
While IHN is not harmful to humans, it can be particularly lethal for Atlantic salmon. Finfish such as sockeye, chinook, coho, and rainbow trout can also contract it, though wild populations have, to date, been more resistant.
According to CFIA, the virus is found in the Pacific Ocean watershed of B.C. On occasion, it has also popped up among farmed fish. It can be spread by contaminated equipment and contaminated water, as well as by infected fish, both alive and dead. A vaccine to prevent the virus is available, but the BC Salmon Farmers Association say Mainstream was not using it.
As of this writing, 30 B.C. fish farms have been cleared after being tested for the virus. “Weak positive” results have been found on two Mainstream Canada farms north of Tofino as well as on a Grieg Seafood coho farm near Sechelt. All three farms are under quarantine.
The virus has also cropped up in Washington among Atlantic salmon at a Bainbridge fish farm, leading to destruction of more than a million pounds of Atlantic salmon. In an interview with the Kitsap Sun, John Kerwin, Department of Fish and Wildlife fish health supervisor, said, “Any first time it occurs, you don’t fully understand the impact to wild fish. We know it can impact (farm) fish. If we move fast, we can try to minimize the amplification.”
Photos of Adams River sockeye salmon run by Cathryn Wellner
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