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More testing required

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced on February 17 that it has placed a quarantine on at least two locations at Cooke Aquaculture’s Kelly Cove open net pen aquaculture site in Shelburne Harbour, Nova Scotia. A senior official told CBC TV reporter Paul Wynn that, after preliminary tests showing the prospect of the destructive and incurable disease, that they have placed a quarantine on the site until further tests are conducted at a federal laboratory in Moncton.

Cooke became aware of the outbreak more than week ago and, in the last two days, has been shipping many thousands of fish in the dark hours of the morning from Shelburne Wharf in 17 massive tractor trailers to a site near canning to be "humanely euthanized" and rendered. Cooke has four current sites in the harbour, two of which are stocked, one with 300,000 juveniles and one with 700,000 adults. License applications  currently being considered by Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau would have new, large cages installed within metres of the potentially infected sites.

Dr. Roland Cusack, the provincial aquatic health veterinarian for the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture, told CBC that the disease was no great threat to the salmon and that it generally progressed slowly and was not very destructive. In Chile in 2007 a major outbreak resulted in the forced slaughter of millions of fish and the loss of 70% of the jobs in the massive aquaculture infrastructure, almost fatally crippling the industry. ISA was originally detected in Norway in 1984 and by 1988 was widespread and categorized as a "notifiable disease". Outbreaks have occurred in New Brunswick (1996), Scotland (1998, 2008), British Columbia (2011).

Citizens and fishermen in the area have become concerned at the recent turn of events, especially since Belliveau and Cooke have repeatedly assured them that the science behind the aquaculture sites would safeguard the marine habitat and the community. Just twelve hours prior to the massive and deadly explosion at a wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico three years ago, Belliveau stood at a Assembly committee meeting and assured attendees that "current technology made a blowout almost impossible."

Additional stories about ISA and Cooke: