Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Learning More about Disease and its Implications for Wild Salmon

Over the last few years, the role of pathogens in driving declines in salmon populations has come to the forefront of the conversation around wild salmon. In British Columbia in particular there has been a vigorous and often acrimonious debate between wild salmon advocates opposed to open net pen fish farming, and industry boosters including the BC and Canadian Federal Government. In 2011 the announcement from SFU researcher Rick Routledge and Wild Salmon Advocate Alexandra Morton that they had found Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv), a disease previously undocumented on the West Coast, caused a major stir and triggered a response both from the Canadian and US governments.

While the close ties between the Canadian government and the aquaculture industry have caused many to question whether they are acting in good faith when they insist that their disease surveillance  programs have turned up no evidence of ISAv. However, a recent report issued by US government scientists indicates that they have been unable to locate any sign of ISAv, at least in US waters.

Unfortunately, all this concern over ISAv may be a bit of a red herring. Pathogens, including those transmitted from salmon farms and hatcheries are almost certainly impacting wild salmon populations on the coast, and in the rush to determine whether or not ISAv is even here we have wasted valuable time and resources down what has amounted to a political rabbit hole. IHN remains a persistent threat to wild salmon and steelhead, and outbreaks continue to plague hatchery programs up and down the West Coast, and a suite of other pathogens including Bacterial Kidney Disease, and Heart Skeletal Muscular Inflammation Disease, and possibly a new strain of Parvo Virus have been identified as real risks to wild salmon populations.

For those interested NOAA's ISAv surveillance program and their findings, they are hosting a webinar tomorrow.

More information here:


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