Possibly devastating virus not taken seriously as in U.S., Commons told
BY PETER O’NEIL, EDMONTON JOURNAL OCTOBER 21, 2011
The Harper government, which on Thursday described as "inconclusive" tests showing British Columbia wild sockeye salmon have been infected with a potentially devastating virus, isn’t taking the matter as seriously as top politicians in the U.S., the House of Commons was told Thursday.
The New Democratic Party drew attention to a statement issued earlier in the day by three American senators who have made a bipartisan appeal to U.S. government officials to probe the possible spread of infectious salmon anemia.
The senators, describing the disease as "the Canadian salmon virus," are calling on the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to analyze the risk of it spreading.
"We need to act now to protect the Pacific Northwest’s coastal economy and jobs," Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell said.
"There’s no threat to human health, but infectious salmon anemia could pose a serious threat to Pacific Northwest wild salmon and the thousands of Washington State jobs that rely on them."
NDP fisheries critic Fin Donnelly said the Canadian government isn’t taking seriously the news earlier this week that two underweight sockeye tested positive for the disease.
Simon Fraser University fisheries statistician Rick Routledge said the infected fish were among 48 smolts sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island at the suggestion of B.C. salmon biologist Alexandra Morton, an outspoken critic of the fish farm industry.
It has been described as the first time the disease has been detected on the West Coast, and Routledge said the only "plausible" source was fish farms.
Morton has alleged that the virus also likely is to be found in B.C. farmed salmon, though the government and aquaculture industry said there’s no evidence of that.
"The U.S. recognizes the urgent need to protect their coastal economy and jobs, but this government is mute," Donnelly said during question period. "Don’t they understand the scale of this new threat? Will the minister tell Canadians exactly what emergency actions he’ll take?"
Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield read out a statement saying the disease has "never been found" in B.C. farmed salmon and that his department has tested wild salmon three times this year. All three tests were negative.
Ashfield said the positive results for the two salmon from B.C.’s Rivers Inlet, a popular salmon-fishing area on the central coast, are "far from conclusive." He said his department will conduct further tests.
The virus found on the two smolts has been identified as the European strain of the virus, which has been found in Atlantic wild salmon. B.C. has imported more than 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs over the past 25 years from the U.S. and Europe, according to the federal government.
The same virus pummeled Chilean fish farms in 2007-08, killing millions of fish and resulting in fish farm and processing plant closures.
The three U.S. senators are Cantwell, a Democrat, and two Alaskans, Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich.
The Alaskan senators used the news release to contrast their state’s policy of promoting the wild salmon fishery against the government-supported B.C. aquaculture industry. firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal