Clayton Hunt TC Media —Harbour Breton, Newfoundland
Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley says the government is very concerned about the five cases of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) that have occurred in the Coast of Bays within the past year-and-a-half.
The latest ISA cases involved a Gray Aquaculture site at Pass My Can and a Cooke Aquaculture operation at Manuel’s Arm, which are both located in the northeast part of Bay d’Espoir.
Even though the outbreaks have been confined to a specific area, Dalley said, the province is concerned about managing and mitigating the impacts of any potential virus on the aquaculture industry.
While the government and industry continues to invest in best practices, he acknowledged some events are beyond anyone’s control.
“ISA comes from the wild,” Dalley said, “so we have to continue to work with industry to find ways and means to protect fish health against future viruses. We also need to ensure we have the proper protocols and mechanisms in place to address this issue swiftly to mitigate any potential impact on other sites.”
Plan in works
The minister said the government is working closely with aquaculture companies in developing a Bay Management Plan that will look at issues facing the industry moving forward. He noted the plan is a significant document that will address biosecurity issues facing the industry.
The Bay Management Plan will soon be completed and ready for use by the industry.
“In addition, we’ve increased our vigilance particularly in this region in terms of testing and inspections for possible issues,” he said. “ISA compounds a company’s problems in terms of developing business plans and supplying markets, so we have to be always cautious about this serious matter.”
With regards to others who are concerned about ISA, Dalley said people need to understand the virus is not harmful to humans, as it poses no threat to human health through consumption or contact.
He said studies have proven it is not feasible to raise large volumes of fish in land-based containment systems.
“To the naysayers, I want to say that we are cautious, we rely on science, our veterinarians consistently monitor and, when issues do arise, we have a good working relationship with the companies involved,” Dalley said. “We also have significant protocols and standard operation practices in place, and we will continue to build this industry while being ever aware of the challenges it presents.”
Dalley said the industry is valuable to the province and Coast of Bays in particular.
“We’ve seen significant growth in the area’s economy in the past few years and we want to see this continuing. We have a tremendous opportunity for aquaculture in this province, and again, we are committed to working with the companies to ensure that when and where there are challenges, we put measures in place to address them. We will continue to help build the industry and to work with stakeholders, especially around the issues of biosecurity and fish health.”
A Cooke Aquaculture official said ISA continues to be a challenge to both companies operating in the area.
“Cold Ocean is working very closely with both the (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and (Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture) to manage through it,” Nell Halse said. “We recently had another positive case as the minister indicated to you, but the fish have already been removed from the affected cages under CFIA supervision.
“This is in keeping with our company’s practice to move quickly and aggressively to remove fish once a site becomes positive. We continue to stock farms in NL according to Bay Management principles and will continue to process fish in the Harbour Breton facility.”