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COOKED? More ISA infections possible for Cooke Aquaculture

17feb2010: revised – Reports are circulating wildly that Cooke Aquaculture has had a serious outbreak of the deadly Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) in its Kelly Cove facility in Shelburne Harbour.  Workers at the Town Wharf told SCT that two massive tractor trailers left the wharf before daylight loaded with dozens of crates of live salmon. Reports are that perhaps thousands of fish were taken to a facility in Canning to be slaughtered and disposed of.

ISAv is one of the most virulent diseases that infect farmed salmon the world over, but Cooke has said repeatedly that there has never been an outbreak of ISA in Shelburne. Serious outbreaks of ISA have been previously reported in New Brunswick, Maine, Norway, Scotland and Chile, which, in 2007, saw millions of fish and 7,000 jobs destroyed overnight in the worst ever ISA epidemic in history.

In January, the Cooke subsidiary in southern Chile was cited for a suspected ISA outbreak and was forced by government regulations to slaughter hundreds of thousands of salmon.

Sources have told SCT that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was on site In the wake of a 33-count indictment by Environment Canada for illegal pesticide use which could result in millions of dollars in fines and decades in prison by company executives, Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd., a division of Cooke Aquaculture of New Brunswick, has been fined $40,000 by Health Canada for not using a pesticide properly.

Cooke apparently has up to 320,000 smaller fish in a site called Hartz Point and 700,000 or more mature fish near McNutt’s Island. One source very familiar with aquaculture operations in Shelburne Harbour told SCT that it may be that the fish that are being carted away come from the McNutts Island Cooke facility, as he thinks it not likely that there any full grown fish in Shelburne’s inner harbour (Sandy Point, Hartz Point, and Boston Rock sites).

One of the new, large sites being considered by Cooke (Middle Head) site is right next to the McNutts Island site and, says the source,  "if there were a breakout of ISA at McNutts Island it would and should have an immediate impact on the license procedure of its neighbor, Middle Head. If McNutts Island is in trouble," he added, "then this is particularly serious in that it seems to be a better site than any of the inner harbour sites recently approved."

Criminal charges, fines for illegal pesticide use

Kelly Cove, which has come under fire from critics was issued 10 notices on Sept. 29 for violating Health Canada’s pesticide compliance program. The company was found to have applied the pest control product Salmosan 50 WP at rates that well exceeded permissible levels for controlling sea lice on salmon. Pesticide users are required to follow the directions on the pesticide label so as not to create an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. The company didn’t contest the findings. Health Canada also fined the former Harvest Sea Farms Ltd.) $24,000 for a similar pesticide compliance violation.

Pam Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, dismissed the violations as a simple "labeling problem." She also noted that there have been no sea lice treatments used on Cooke salmon farms in Nova Scotia for at least the past six years. Previously,Cooke PR chief Nell Halse has said that Cooke has never had to treat salmon in Nova Scotia for sea lice.

Parker said the pesticide penalties have nothing to do with recent environmental charges laid against three Cooke Aquaculture executives, including company chief executive officer Glenn Cooke in New Brunswick.

Cooke Aquaculture regional manager Jeff Nickerson would not comment on the ISA incident and executives with Cooke, Nova Scotia department of Fisheries & Aquaculture and CFIA did not respond to several telephone inquires by SCT