Salmon farmers confident of their product

Consumers of farmed salmon can dine with “confidence” despite headline-grabbing deadly ocean virus testimony

Consumers of farmed salmon can dine with “confidence” despite headline-grabbing deadly ocean virus testimony given at the Cohen Commission examining the decline of Fraser River sockeye.

Testimony, which wrapped up last week, has raised fresh questions about the potential threat of the Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) virus that has ravaged farmed salmon elsewhere in the world.

In the wake of this testimony Campbell River-based BC Salmon Farmers Association Executive Director Mary Ellen Walling said simply: “We have a record of confidence.”

Walling, who attended the commission hearings, said: “The gap in the testimony we have heard is around the lack of knowledge we have on viruses in the Pacific Ocean that may affect wild salmon.

“There are millions and millions of viruses in the sea. They are the most prevalent life forms in the ocean. But, virus does not always equal disease.

“Because we’ve done so much work on farmed fish monitoring we have a record of confidence in the results that we have had over the past decade and we don’t see large numbers of an explained mortalities in our fish.

“If our fish were carrying this ISA virus they would die because this is a virus that has been proven to have a terrible affect on farmed Atlantic salmon … we’ve seen that in other jurisdictions,” Walling added.

The commission heard new evidence that critics say suggests federal agencies were willing to suppress the truth about risks to salmon to protect industry and trade. One email entered in evidence came from a BC manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) which investigated alleged findings of ISA and then refuted those reports. The CFIA manager emailed colleagues in November to praise their “very successful performance” briefing the media. “It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour,” he bragged.

Stephen Stephen, the director of DFO’s Biotechnology and Aquatic Animal Health Sciences Branch, rejected suggestions federal employees pre-judged the ISA investigation.

He defended CFIA’s recent determination that re-testing failed to confirm any presence of ISA in several wild salmon collected separately by a SFU professor and independent biologist Alexandra Morton. However, DFO researcher Kristi Miller told the inquiry that the ISA virus, or something very similar, may have been present in wild BC salmon for 25 years. The CFIA has promised systematic salmon sampling to test for ISA in BC waters starting next year. Craig Orr, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said he believes ISA is present in BC on the basis of the initial tests, although he said it’s unclear what threat, if any, this poses to wild salmon.

“The bigger question is what government is doing to protect our interests as opposed to protecting very narrow interests like salmon farming,” Orr said.

Asked if the hearing testimony represents a public relations setback for salmon farmers Walling said: “It’s always challenging communicating complex scientific questions.

“People want to have confidence in the food that they are eating. They want to have delicious meal. They want to eat something that is healthy. They want to know we are protecting wild salmon in the environment where we are farming.

“We try to be open and accessible in terms of the information we are providing the public,” the association executive director said.

Just Posted

Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Conservation officers also apparently looking for cougar in the area

Community profiles show social determinants of health

Reports depict life in Campbell River and other Strathcona communities

‘Free Willy’ bill to end whale captivity supported by MP Blaney

Blaney says law would have died without efforts by New Democrat MPs

VIDEO: Pickup truck smashes into Campbell River home

No injuries reported in Friday morning incident

Help needed in locating concrete pump stolen from Campbell River business

The pump is considered a very high value item to the business

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

Most Read