Jack MacAndrew: Atlantic Fisherman
There’s no doubt the people at Cooke Aquaculture were pleased to see the month of March come to an end, but their troubles with Infectious Salmon Anaemia may not be over for several months yet, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
By the time the month ended, salmon infected with the deadly virus had been found in four individual pens; over 100,000 salmon had been euthanized; and the entire 24-pen site placed under strict quarantine while testing in the remaining pens continued.
The company chose – of its own accord – to destroy salmon found in two of the pens, for which they will receive no compensation. The second set of two were ordered destroyed by the CFIA, which will pay compensation according to the “market value” of the fish euthanized.
Cooke Aquaculture will not say what their loss has been from the salmon already euthanized. That loss would escalate rapidly into many millions of dollars if the infection is found to have spread throughout the site.
However, if additional cages of fish are ordered killed, those salmon could find their way onto your neighbourhood supermarket fish counter. An email from the CFIA touches upon this possibility.
“Since infectious salmon anaemia poses no human health or food safety risk, the facility may explore processing options where available. If processing is not an option, fish are humanely destroyed and disposed of in accordance with provincial and municipal guidelines.”
“There would be no special labelling requirements,” because “There is no human health or food safety risk associated with infectious salmon anaemia.”
Cooke Aquaculture is not anxious to share detailed information on its intentions.
Should the company process and market additional salmon ordered euthanized by the CFIA, it would save the government from running up an expenditure of millions of dollars for compensation.
“The exact number of fish and cages that have already been removed and may be removed in the future, as testing continues, is proprietary information.” “…Like most companies we are not prepared to do our business and share production information and decisions in the public domain or in the media,” says Communications Director Nell Halse in an email to the Atlantic Fisherman.
A CFIA media release does not say whether additional pens are infected, only that any more fish found to be infected by the virus will also be destroyed.
“The facility will remain under quarantine until all fish have been removed from the site and all pens, cages, and equipment have been cleaned and disinfected. This process could take months to complete,” reads the email.
The CFIA says Cooke Aquaculture is co-operating with the federal agency, and compliments the company for what it terms its “pro-active approach.”
“Their actions are an excellent example of how the industry takes their responsibility for fish health and these situations seriously.”
“We did the right thing,” [by euthanizing salmon in two pens] says Ms. Halse, “when our own testing and that of the province indicated that ISA might be present, rather than wait for CFIA confirmation.”