Scientists might have found Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation at a B.C. salmon farm

A team of international researchers, working on the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative, have diagnosed a potential Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation in Atlantic salmon from an aquaculture facility in B.C.

The samples that showed these results were collected in 2013-2014, in the first stages of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative.

“Dr.  [Kristi] Miller and her team’s research helps to provide yet another piece in the complex puzzle of salmon health on the Pacific coast,” said Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in a press release. “These findings are important for fish health and the scientific community because they help us to better understand certain conditions that are affecting fish.”

The disease was only found in one Atlantic salmon farm and has not been diagnosed in wild Pacific salmon.

“The findings announced by the SSHI investigators regarding a potential diagnosis of Heart and Skeletal Muscle inflammation in fish from one Atlantic salmon farm in B.C. are important,” said Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, in a press release. “However there is no consensus amongst the scientific community about the finding as the fish sampled in this farm showed no clinical signs of the disease.”

HSMI does not affect human health. The disease is low mortality but it can pose a significant challenge to production.

HSMI was first reported in the late 1990s in Norway. A specific cause has not been established.

The Strategic Salmon Health Initiative is a collaboration between Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome B.C. The eight year project merges genomics and fish health technologies to map microbes in B.C. salmon.

The first phase of the project was collecting samples. The next phase was to develop and test genomic technology and use that technology to test the salmon samples to find which microbes that are associated with diseases are carried by wild and farmed salmon. After that the researchers will determine if the microbes found in farmed salmon can be passed on to wild salmon. The final phase of the project is to report the research to the appropriate people. This should be completed by 2020.