A Fraser River coho salmon collected in October by biologist Alexandra Morton

Salmon inquiry to reopen hearings into virus reports

Fish farms, critics trade shots over initial ISA test results

The Cohen inquiry will hear more evidence in December to weigh reports that a deadly salmon virus has infected multiple species of wild salmon on the B.C. coast.

The commission into the decline of Fraser River sockeye had ended hearings in September and began taking final submissions Friday.

But commission counsel Brian Wallace said the inquiry will reconvene for two more days of testimony in mid-December.

“Testing of samples of Pacific salmon from two areas of the province has indicated the possible presence of the Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus in several Pacific salmon,” Wallace said.

More results are expected within a month, he said, adding the inquiry has asked for the latest test results and information on the fish.

The first reported detection of ISA in two sockeye smolts sampled along the central coast was disclosed by SFU researcher Rick Routledge in early October, after the inquiry stopped hearing witnesses, including experts on salmon diseases.

Independent biologist and anti-fish farm activist Alexandra Morton said three more salmon taken from lower Fraser tributaries – a chinook, a coho and a chum – also tested positive for ISA virus.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is analyzing the samples and has not yet confirmed any of the positive tests.

News of the potential ISA infection has rocked the B.C. salmon industry, raising the spectre stocks here may be hit with an ISA outbreak of the type that have ravaged Chilean and European fish farms.

Fisheries critics fear the virus is loose in the wild and will be able to infect net pen Atlantic salmon farms – if they are not there already – and pose a continuing threat to wild salmon stocks.

“All these fish farms need to close down now,” Morton said, adding ISA becomes more virulent in captive environments like fish farms and hatcheries.

“The only hope is to turn off the source, stop crowding fish together and let this thing burn through the wild Pacific like a forest fire and extinguish itself. That’s it, there is no other option.”

Morton also wants a B.C. lab established to test for ISA and that it be overseen by an international board.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association said it has sampled thousands of fish from its members’ farms without finding any ISA.

But critics like Morton don’t trust industry-controlled tests.

And U.S. senators from Washington and Alaska have also called for independent tests, suggesting Canadian officials may be too close to the $400-million aquaculture industry.

Mainstream Canada, an aquaculture firm, said in a statement independent re-testing of the first reported samples has come back inconclusive.

It cited a Norwegian researcher who was unable to replicate the earlier results and cautioned a weak positive result can reflect a different virus with a similar genetic profile.

Mainstream said it’s critical to wait for the CFIA tests to give the final word and accused Morton of “spreading fear and concern without any basis in fact.”

ISA has mainly been a disease of farmed Atlantic salmon and the European strain can kill up to 90 per cent of infected fish.

Some researchers and aquaculture organizations say it may pose less of a threat to wild sockeye.

Just Posted

Lagoon improvements, but no safety audit recommendations, coming to Harrison

The lagoon will see electrical upgrades, a new flag pole and fencing, but no life jackets or signs

UFV introduces first mindfulness graduate program in Canada

Most of the University of the Fraser Valley program is offered online

All child porn charges against Chilliwack realtor dismissed

Meissner’s computers contained ‘miniscule’ amount of content normally found on offenders’ devices

Mounties hunt for missing Langley man

The public has been asked to help locate David Grainger, last seen on March 19

B.C. Wildfire crews respond to Sts’ailes, Morris Valley fires

A fire at the First Nation and a grass fire in Mission sent smoke across the valley Wednesday

Harrison Hot Springs students bring ‘Twelfth Night’ to life

The adaption of Shakespeare’s classic comedy include songs and phrases from Canada’s east coast

Vancouver Giant named to Western Conference first-tier all-star team

Young hockey defenceman Bowen Byram is once again lauded for his outstanding efforts on the ice

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Punching Parkinson’s in the Fraser Valley

Rock Steady Boxing program, designed to help battle symptoms of Parkinson’s, coming to Abbotsford in April

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Most Read