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

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

The river behind the ball field. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Pulled by the flow: river stirs up childhood memories

Gazette editor makes trek through Port Hardy wilderness to swim in the river

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read