Community News: Infectious Salmon Anemia discovered on BC coast

imageEarlier this month a press release surfaced indicating the discovery of the European strain of infectious salmon anemia in wild sockeye smolts near Rivers Inlet on BC’s central coast.

Given the history of this virus and the potential implications it could have on our coastal eco-systems this discovery should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately the BC salmon farming industry is notoriously entrenched with the government and surrounded by a lack of transparency. This is no time to be putting corporate profits over the health and well being of one of the richest and diverse eco-systems in the world. Infectious Salmon Anemia poses a very serious threat not only to wild Pacific salmon but also to our First Nations Aboriginal Title and Rights and every species that depends on Pacific salmon for survival.

ISA was first observed in Atlantic salmon from Norwegian fish farms in the mid-eighties, it soon appeared in salmon farms in Chile with further outbreaks occurring in Scotland and a new variation of the disease emerging in farms on the east coast of Canada. ISA is a fatal disease that attacks the red blood cells of salmon and causes such symptoms as pale gills, swollen spleen and liver and failure of the circulatory system. When an outbreak of ISA occurs the results are devastating and with no cure developed the usual course of action is total eradication of any potentially exposed fish. Like many infectious viruses ISA is able to adapt and quickly mutate. The fact that the particular strain of salmon anemia discovered in BC is of the European variety seems to clearly indicate open-net fish farms as the source of the disease.

The salmon farming industry in BC has been controversial since it’s inception. The salmon farms are 92% owned by Norwegian investors with the vast majority of fish being exported to America. It seems the average BC resident wants nothing to do with open-net fish farms, be it operating them or consuming the product. Nonetheless, the government seems heavily invested in promoting and protecting these fish farms and has even charged Fisheries and Oceans Canada with the task of promoting the fish-farming industry. ISA is only the latest on a long list of detrimental impacts that fish farms are having on our natural ecosystem. It is disheartening to know that the department of government that should be dedicated to conserving our natural fish populations is instead promoting an environmentally harmful and potentially devastating industry.

Infectious salmon anemia is one of many threats impacting our salmon populations today. Acidification of the ocean, irresponsible logging practices, global warming, commercial fisheries, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately the threat of ISA could be the worse challenge yet for wild Pacific salmon. This is no time for the Harper government’s dismissive attitudes; it’s shameful that it came down to pressure from our American neighbors before there was any notion of undertaking a study to determine the extent of the ISA outbreak. Immediate and direct action is necessary to insure protection of our wild salmon populations. The Wild Salmon Policy must be implemented; all data from fish farm monitoring should be made public, the DFO needs to be restructured into an effectual department dedicated to conservation and a ban on open-net fish farms has to be re-introduced.

Salmon are the backbone of our coastal ecosystems. First Nations communities have relied on them since time immemorial. Salmon provide food for countless species including bears, killer whales, eagles and wolves. Wild Pacific salmon define our identity and insuring their survival is fundamental to who we are.

Julian Napoleon, Dunne-za/Cree
Project Coordinator, Redwire
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Salmon are Sacred - great constant updates
Muskrat Magazine article Marika Swan wrote about the Tla-o-qui-aht Paddle for Wild Salmon

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