Did Canadian government cover up deadly virus?


Controversy has been growing in Canada over claims that the Canadian government knew that the deadly ISA virus had hit West Coast salmon.

The claims first surfaced last month when it was claimed that the Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus (ISA) had been detected in three wild salmon in British Columbia – the government claimed that this had not been confirmed. However it has since been suggested that in facts signs of the virus were actually found in over 100 wild salmon from the Bering Sea as long ago as 2002 and that the government either didn’t investigate them or failed to publish the findings.

The new reports prove extremely worrying to both biologists and to Canada's $2.1-billion fish farming industry. The ISA outbreak in Chile in 2007 resulted in a 70% decline in farmed salmon production.

The report which surfaced this week on the Superheroes4salmon blog dates from 2004 found that 22% of more than 500 fish sampled had tested positive and 10 out of 37 Chinook caught "inside east Alaska" tested positive.

Whilst the blog claims that the non-disclosure of information by the government is a breach of international obligations it may be good news in the fact that it suggests that that wild salmon along the Pacific Coast are resistant to a devastating outbreak.

The government continue to deny that anything was found and say that they followed up the report and found that they were false negatives and that recent reports of the virus have not been verified. However the 'fishyleaks' report insists that this is a cover up:

"Someone should be going to jail over this," John Werring of the David Suzuki Foundation, a Vancouver, Canada-based conservation organisation, said in an email quoted in the Fishyleaks report. "Never in my over 20 years of doing my work have I seen such duplicity by our government. The closest thing I can relate to is when whistle-blowers in the U.S. released documents showing that tobacco companies knew their product harmed people... Appalling!"

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.