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All the facts in salmon issue must be revealed

October 28, 2011

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Re: ‘Feds must take threat seriously’ (Daily News, Oct. 24)

Although I agree 100% with the title of Walter Cordery’s piece about a suspected new fish virus found in two B.C. juvenile wild sockeye, it is concerning that the rest of the article omits many important facts about this issue.

Cordery fails to acknowledge that initial findings are unverified and that the CFIA has stated. “We are concerned that proper protocols may not have been followed in the testing and reporting of these findings.” He is wrong in suggesting that the federal government was slow to react; authorities have been engaged since the Monday of Simon Fraser University’s premature press release.

And although Cordery hints four times that B.C. farmed salmon may be the source of this fish virus, he fails to mention nearly 5,000 farmed salmon have been tested according to international standards over the past eight years. All samples were negative – that is, no virus.

I would kindly suggest that if Cordery is going to continue to comment on this issue, that he try to include all pertinent facts. Your readers deserve as much.

Ian Roberts – Marine Harvest Canada, Campbell River

© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2011

In response to:

Walter Cordery: Feds must take threat seriously
Walter Cordery, The Daily News – Nanaimo
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011

It wasn’t until Alaskan and Washington state politicians raised the alarm about a potentially devastating salmon virus that has been detected in wild West Coast salmon stocks that Ottawa started to investigate the findings of a study by Simon Fraser University fisheries statistician Rick Routledge.

Initially, the Harper government described the study as “inconclusive.”

New Democratic fisheries critic Fin Donnelly drew attention to concerns raised Thursday by three American senators who have made a bipartisan appeal to U.S. government officials to probe the possible spread of infectious salmon anemia.

The senators are calling on the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to analyze the risk of it spreading.

“We need to act now to protect the Pacific Northwest’s coastal economy and jobs,” Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell said.

“Infectious salmon anemia could pose a serious threat to Pacific Northwest wild salmon and the thousands of Washington State jobs that rely on them.”

Donnelly said Ottawa wasn’t taking the SFU report seriously.

This shouldn’t comes as a surprise. When it comes to aquaculture, both the Harper Conservatives and the Chretien/ Martin Liberals have thrown the “precautionary principle” out the window. That principle stems from the UN’s Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It states: “In decision making, the precautionary principle is considered when possibly dangerous, irreversible, or catastrophic events are identified, but scientific evaluation of the potential damage is not sufficiently certain.”

The precautionary principle implies an emphasis on the need to prevent such adverse effects. Canada was a signatory of the summit’s final communiqu?.

The ISA virus, previously limited to Atlantic salmon – including an outbreak that ravaged Chile’s farm-raised salmon industry in 2007 and 2008 – was found in two out of 48 young sockeye salmon sampled from B.C. The findings were announced Monday in Vancouver by Routledge, who said the European strain of the virus they detected had only been identified before in farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

The research suggested that the virus in Canada originated from imports of Atlantic salmon and eggs into the Pacific Northwest, though no direct link has been confirmed.

When Donnelly pointed out ISA devastated corporate fish farms in Chile and with the pressure from West Coast American senators, the Harper government relented somewhat and agreed to look into the matter.

Federal officials are working to confirm reports that ISA has been detected in B.C. wild salmon stocks.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is investigating recent reports that infectious salmon anaemia has been detected in wild sockeye salmon in British Columbia.” said a statement issued Friday.

They said they are now working closely with the Atlantic Veterinary College, which conducted initial testing for Routledge, to confirm the results.

It seems to me that if Ottawa really believed in the precautionary principle, it would halt the importation of Atlantic salmon eggs to B.C. and destroy any infected fish farms to stop the spread of this virus.

When Republican senators from Alaska echo the warnings of peer-reviewed scientists like Alexandra Morton that this finding poses a threat to B.C. salmon, it’s time Ottawa took this matter seriously and do more than just study the findings.

© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2011