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FROM SEAFOOD NEWS: Charlottetown , PEI; by Jack MacAndrew: Shortly after dawn on the morning of Friday , February 17, two huge trailer trucks pulled away from the wharf in Shelburne Harbour.

The trucks contained the contents of two cages of euthanized salmon from a farm operated by Cooke Aquaculture in Shelburne Harbour , dumped into huge grey tote boxes.

Cooke Aquaculture says it took the pro-active measure after workers noticed odd behavior of the suspect salmon a week earlier , and fish in two cages began dying of their own accord. Testing at a provincial government lab raised the suspicion that the fish had contracted Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISAv).

The somewhat surreptitious nature of the operation drew the attention of workers on the wharf. When salmon are normally harvested for the processing plant , they are carried away in tank trucks to keep the fish alive until they are slaughtered at the processing facility.

The word got around to local environmentalists and soon the rumour spread that the dreaded Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) had been found in the Cooke Aquaculture salmon.

Local inquiries made to Cooke’s Regional Manager drew only a terse “ no comment”.

As it turns out , it was no rumour , and now , the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ( CFIA ) is on the case.

Reached in Ottawa , Dr. Con Kiley , Director of National Aquatic Animal Health Programs for the CFIA confirmed to SeafoodNews.com , that: “ An investigation is under way at a salmon facility in Nova Scotia after a suspect case of ISA has been discovered. “

Dr. Kiley further confirmed that only one such investigation is currently underway in Nova Scotia .

He describes the removal of a large quantity of salmon from “ a facility in Shelburne “ as a “ precautionary and a pro-active measure carried out with the co-operation of the company concerned “.

Cooke Aquaculture Inc. is the only salmon aquaculture firm operating in Shelburne harbor.

Samples of the flesh of the suspect salmon have been sent to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans laboratory in Moncton , New Brunswick , to test for the presence of ISA.

Those results , not expected for a matter of weeks , will determine whether the suspect case was an isolated instance; a mis-diagnosis by the provincial government lab; or whether the potential for a widespread outbreak exists.

Such outbreaks have happened before in eastern Canadian salmon farms , including those operated by Cooke Aquaculture in New Brunswick.

Meanwhile , Cooke’s Shelburne Harbour operation has been placed under quarantine , and “ control measures “ put in place.

The Cooke Aquaculture corporate office in St.Andrews , New Brunswick , responded late Friday afternoon with a statement on its website confirming that the company “ has humanely euthanized two cages of fish in Nova Scotia after routine testing raised suspicion of the infectious Salmon Anemia ( ISA ) virus. “

“ This voluntary action is considered as a proactive fish health management strategy employed by salmon farmers around the world……” The statement did not include the value of the salmon destroyed , or the number of fish.

According to the company…” the suspicion of ISA was raised during a routine fish health surveillance and testing”…on February 10, 2012.

In its statement , Cooke Aquaculture emphasizes that “…the presence of ISA has NOT been confirmed. “

The virus is a water borne disease occurring naturally in the environment , and is present in wild salmon populations. The Cooke statement maintains that “..salmon farmers have learned to manage it over many years”.

However the virus spreads more rapidly amongst fish in close containment , and salmon preservation groups say those fish can transmit it to endangered wild stock which might pass by .

There is no risk to human health.

Recently Cooke Aquaculture submitted a proposal to set up three additional salmon farms in the Shelburne area. Last year , a company expansion into St. Mary’s Bay in southwestern Nova Scotia triggered protests as well as lawsuits from a coalition of lobster fishermen and community groups in that area.

The Shelburne operation has also evoked protest and lawsuits by community groups against the province of Nova Scotia.

Currently ,the Scotland based company Loch Duart is seeking a licence to open up farming operations along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia under a company called Snow Island Salmon , in partnership with local entrepreneurs .

Conservation groups and local fishermen are lobbying the provincial government not to issue a licence, and are already using the events in Shelburne Harbour as a major talking point.