Federal authorities have quarantined a Nova Scotia salmon farm after a suspected case of a contagious virus was detected a week ago.
The suspected infection was detected by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and happened at a farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture.
Infectious salmon anemia (ISA) is an incurable and destructive virus that affects both wild and farmed salmon. The company has destroyed two cages of fish.
Roland Cusack is Nova Scotia’s chief veterinarian for aquatic animal health. (CBC)
Neither Cooke Aquaculture nor the government agencies investigating would say which of the company’s Nova Scotian salmon farms is the suspected source of the virus.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is trying to confirm the initial tests that found the ISA.
"It’s a concern for the salmon farmers because there’s no treatment for it. So although it usually doesn’t cause really catastrophic large-scale losses, you can get losses chronically over an extended period of time. Since there’s no treatment, you need to detect it early, which hopefully it was in this case," said Roland Cusack, Nova Scotia’s chief veterinarian for aquatic animal health.
Infected Salmon Anemia is not a danger to humans. It was last detected in Nova Scotia in 2003.
"We went ahead and placed a quarantine on the facility and began to take some investigative procedures," said Cornelius Kiley, director of national aquatic animal health for the CFIA.
"Indications are that ISA could be present. We are considering it a suspect and as such are moving now to the next level which is the official government of Canada laboratory to do further work see if we can confirm this finding or not," Kiley said.
In Shelburne Friday, the suspected presence of ISA fueled opponents of a massive expansion planed for the area by Cooke Aquaculture.
Sindy Horncastle is a spokeswoman for Mayday-Shelburne County, a coalition of fishermen and residents. (CBC)
"This disease has happened all over the world where farms are heavily stocked, farms close together, and this is what the Nova Scotia government is proposing for our coastline," said Sindy Horncastle, a Shelburne resident.
Horncastle is a spokeswoman for a Mayday-Shelburne County — a coalition of residents and fishermen. She said the danger of the virus is pesticides could be used to control the outbreak, a risk to the lobster fishery.
The industry sees it as a sign of responsible behaviors by the company and regulators.
"As soon as regular monitoring picked on the fact there could potentially be a case of disease and they took immediate steps to make sure that there was no potential for the spread of the disease," said Bruce Hancock, executive director at the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia.
"We’ll probably heighten surveillance with the industry, though I think we’ll have to wait until this unfolds a little bit more, but right now things were done quite quickly and hopefully we’ve caught it early," Cusak said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it would be several weeks before the results of its tests will be known.