Leaks reveal ISA may have been detected in wild BC salmon in 2002

November 30, 2011 eNews

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Leaks reveal ISA may have been detected in wild BC salmon in 2002

On October 17th a Simon Fraser University research team announced the detection of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) in BC wild salmon. (See last month’s newsletter.) The Canadian government’s response was lethargic to say the least until finally the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced that in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), it would investigate “recent reports that infectious salmon anemia has been detected in wild sockeye salmon in British Columbia.”

Meanwhile, a second case of ISA was detected in BC wild salmon and politicians and researchers in Canada and the US began calling for emergency disease response.

On November 9th the CFIA announced that their test “found no sign of infectious salmon anemia” but that “these supplementary results must be considered inconclusive because of the poor quality of the samples.” Peter Wright, manager of the Fisheries and Oceans lab in Moncton where the test was conducted then went on to say: “…we call things inconclusive – because the degradation is so bad you cannot form an opinion from a test standpoint as to whether or not you are capable or not capable. The fact that they come up negative doesn’t really mean anything because they are so badly degraded.” Read our blog post on CFIA’s announcement.

So the CFIA announced inconclusive test results that “don’t mean anything.” This just brings us back to the original findings that are of course no less alarming since the presence of ISA in BC has not been disproved. In fact, it now appears that ISA may have been present in BC waters since the early 2000s and possibly covered up by the Canadian government.

While the Canadian government continues to drag its feet, American senators are working quickly to commence an independent investigation into the presence of ISA stating “We should not rely on another government — particularly one that may have a motive to misrepresent its findings — to determine how we assess the risk ISA may pose to American fishery jobs.” A regional approach, led by people on both sides of the border in the Pacific Northwest and far removed from Ottawa, is our best hope in legitimately assessing the presence of ISA in BC, and preventing a potential catastrophe.

Extensive sea lice database taking shape, new website launched

As part of CAAR’s efforts to compel the net-cage salmon farming industry to transition to closed containment technology, the campaign has also been working to lessen the negative impact on wild salmon while this change takes place. In 2008 CAAR began applying pressure to salmon farming companies to implement emergency interim measures in order to bring relief to at least some of the out-migrating wild salmon affected by their farms. This resulted in a plan tabled by Marine Harvest Canada to create alternating “fallow” routes, emptying farms along one of two key migratory corridors in the Broughton Archipelago during the wild salmon out-migration period, and ensuring farms on the second route contained only sub-adult fish which studies in Europe show have lower lice levels.

The original fallowing plan then led to the development of the Broughton Archipelago Monitoring Plan (BAMP), a collaborative sea lice monitoring and research program between salmon farming companies Marine Harvest Canada, Mainstream Canada, Grieg Seafoods, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, academic researchers and CAAR. The program’s sea lice monitoring information, shared data, research and some preliminary results have now been released for the first time online at www.bamp.ca. This program has given the BAMP science team the most extensive sea lice database in BC to date in order to jointly examine the correlation between lice on farms and sea lice on wild juvenile salmon and the effectiveness of measures to reduce lice levels.

Because the salmon farming industry and government currently deny the impacts of sea lice on wild salmon in BC, CAAR decided that, while Marine Harvest’s alternating fallow plan was hopefully lessening the impacts of their farms on wild salmon, the monitoring program could also add to the weight of science on this debate. Aiming to eliminate dueling science, the findings of this jointly organized sea lice monitoring program will be co-authored by a range of BAMP science team members and will be reviewed by all members of the program in advance of presentation. CAAR is expecting that some published science will emerge in the spring and/or summer of 2012 to this effect.

Transport Canada begins environmental review of Plover Point

Clayoquot Sound

Transport Canada (TC) has commenced an Environmental Assessment screening of Mainsteam’s new Plover Point application in Clayoquot Sound. TC is reviewing the project since it requires a permit under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The project was first posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry website on October 3rd with maximum production proposed to be 3,300 metric tonnes per cycle, but the maximum production was later reduced to 2,640 metric tonnes when the Notice of Commencement was amended on October 31st. No reason was given for the drop in production.

DFO stated publicly on their website that they would not license any new or expanded marine finfish aquaculture projects until after they had received and considered the recommendations from the Cohen Commission – due to be released in June of 2012. The exception is for new sites that replace an existing site and may have a lower environmental impact at an equivalent production level. Documents entered into evidence at the Cohen Commission reveal in an internal memo that DFO already considers Plover Point to be one such site even though the environmental assessment has only just begun.

Mainstream’s application has already met with strong opposition at the provincial level. You can now voice your opposition to Transport Canada by sending a comment on the environmental screening. Make sure to include: CEAR Reference #11-01-64017, Plover Point Finfish Aquaculture in the subject line of your email. Tell Transport Canada not to rely on DFO’s advice regarding this application since Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already made up its mind.

Canadian government still working to legalize toxic pesticide use in salmon farming

In November 2009 a pesticide called cypermethrin (a substance used in Europe to kill sea lice and illegal in Canada) was found on hundreds of dead and dying lobsters in the Bay of Fundy. Locals suspected that salmon farming operations were responsible and after a two-year investigation, Cooke Aquaculture executives have now been charged by Environment Canada for allegedly violating Section 36 (3) of the Fisheries Act – a section that prohibits the deposit of a substance that is harmful to fish into fish-bearing waters.

But while Environment Canada was investigating the use of banned toxic chemicals in the marine environment, for the past year DFO has been in the process of writing a new regulation that would legalize toxic chemicals for use in the salmon farming industry. CAAR and several east coast groups issued a joint media release in February calling on DFO to halt the development of this misguided Pathogen and Pest Treatment regulation but on November 5th DFO gave notice on its website that the process is still moving ahead. On top of this, DFO set a 30-day public comment window (November 5th to December 5th) but have provided no draft of the regulation to review, no new discussion documents and no background information other than the bare bones. CAAR will keep you updated on this process and alert you to any further public input opportunities.

Eviction post cards to be delivered to salmon farming companies

Post cards from many of you, collected by us over the past year calling for the eviction of open net-cage farms from the Wild Salmon Narrows are now being delivered to Marine Harvest, Mainstream and Grieg Seafood. Their farms currently have millions of Atlantic salmon growing in open net-cages along this critical wild salmon migration route and these farms must be emptied before the 2012 outmigration in order to reduce the threat to juvenile wild salmon. The farms not only expose juvenile salmon to elevated levels of sea lice, but the added threat of ISA and other as yet undetermined and unreported diseases pose an unacceptable risk to wild salmon. We call on the companies to do the right thing and get these fish out of the water before the spring migration.