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Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus in British Columbia

Infectious Salmon Anemia VirusFisheries scientist Alexandra Morton of the Raincoast Research Society in Simoon Sound BC (, charges in the January issue of The Osprey, the Steelhead Committee newsletter of the Federation of Fly Fishers, that the British Columbia provincial government has conducted an ongoing bureaucratic coverup on the discovery of the infectious salmon anemia virus (isav) found recently in British Columbia. She opens her indictment as follows.

"On a Sunday night last October, a friend and colleague, Dr. Rick Routledge  of Simon Fraser University, called to say two Rivers Inlet sockeye smolts had tested positive for European strain Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv). The news hit like a ton of bricks. I had written to one Minister of Fisheries after the next asking they close the border to Atlantic salmon eggs to protect BC salmon from ISAv. I was told not to worry, there were 'measures in place to deal with not only ISA, but all fish diseases€¦'

"Rick's research is on the 99% decline in Rivers Inlet sockeye.  Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) is a fish influenza. Since appearing in Norway in 1984, ISA virus has turned up everywhere Atlantic salmon are farmed including eastern Canada, Scotland, Ireland and the Faroe Islands. When ISAv appeared in Chile, killing 70% of the salmon in farms, scientists discovered the virus came with Atlantic salmon eggs. The strain was traced to Norway. The salmon farming industry unsuccessfully attempted to charge Dr. Are Nylund, University of Bergen with "Scientific Misconduct." The day after Rick's call, I headed for the Fraser River, where people were telling me thousands of salmon were floating down the river dead — eggs still inside them. I sent samples to Dr. Kibenge, head of the international reference lab for ISA virus in Prince Edward Island. Three came back positive: a coho, a 25-pound white Chinook and a silver-bright chum salmon. Four species — 600km apart — two generations — ISAv positive. I was thunderstruck.

"Simon Fraser University held a press conference to alert other scientists so more testing could be done. Where was this coming from, and what is it doing to wild salmon? Given the history of the disease, it was natural to turn to the 92% Norwegian-owned salmon farming industry currently raising millions of Atlantic salmon along almost every south coast BC wild salmon migration route.

"An international argument at the highest levels of government ensued. Canada was angry with us. In the BC legislature, the Provincial Minister of Agriculture said we were reckless and that the samples had been destroyed, preventing retesting by government. This was not true. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency fanned out and took possession of the samples that were still in Canada. The Minister has never apologized.

"The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans released a statement saying "€¦Canada's reputation has needlessly been put at risk," that they retested all the samples and "€¦none have tested positive for ISA." But this statement was inaccurate as well."

For the full story go to "Infectious Salmon Anemia" at

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