Salmon farmers work together on virus management

Representatives from all three Atlantic salmon farming companies have come together to co-ordinate approaches to mitigating risk factors

  • May. 22, 2012 10:00 a.m.

Prompt action and information sharing has been the response of BC’s salmon farmers to news that a case of Infectious Haematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) has been identified on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

Representatives from all three Atlantic salmon farming companies have come together to co-ordinate approaches to mitigating risk factors in containing the virus, in adding testing on a wide range of farms and supporting the affected company.

“These companies are paying close attention to the situation and moved immediately to assess their current situation and prepare for steps to come,” said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director, BC Salmon Farmers Association. “The action by all members has been thorough, decisive and organized.”

On May 14, Mainstream Canada detected IHN virus as part of their routine fish health inspections at their Dixon Bay farm. The site has been officially quarantined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the company has begun to depopulate the site.

IHN virus is naturally carried by Pacific salmon, trout and herring, and studies show that they have a natural resistance to the virus and rarely develop illness or disease.

Atlantic salmon however are highly susceptible to the virus, and when the virus is spread from wild sources to farm-raised Atlantic salmon, it can be lethal to the farmed fish.

BCSFA’s members who farm Atlantic salmon have all signed a viral disease management plan, which has been implemented. This plan outlines communications, shared resources as well as plans for disposal and follow-up. All of these procedures are targeted at limiting any spread of the virus.

“This is definitely concerning news for our members – but they recognize that it’s critical to work with each other and with regulators to ensure that potential impacts are minimized,” said Walling.

The Dixon Bay finding is the first case of IHN in BC’s salmon farms since 2003. IHN poses no human health risk.