First Nations fearful of B.C. salmon disaster

Wed. Nov. 2/11
First Nations fearful of B.C. salmon disaster
Daily News
Darrell Bellaart

A salmon virus identified in the central B.C. coast has reportedly now been found in Fraser River salmon, fueling Nanaimo First Nations fears of a looming disaster with B.C. salmon.

A Seattle biologist is sounding the alarm after obtaining a leaked copy of a Canadian Food Inspection Agency report that he says identified salmon anemia virus in fish from a Fraser River tributary. In mid-October, researchers at Simon Fraser University announced test results confirmed the presences of a marine influenza called infectious salmon anemia virus in two of 48 juvenile sockeye salmon collected in Rivers Inlet.

This time it was coho. Aquaculture critic Alexandra Morton said she collected the fish from the Harrison River, but has not seen the Food Inspection Agency report.

Morton said she is not allowed to talk about it due to a confidentiality requirement imposed upon her until the Cohen Commission into Pacific salmon stocks is made public.

Federal fisheries officials referred the matter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. CFIA could not be reached.

Seattle biologist Todd Sandell, a Wild Fish Conservancy member, told the New York Times and other U.S. media the Food Inspec-tion Agency report confirms the ISA virus. But it isn't known if it is the same European strain identified in central coast sockeye collected for the SFU study.

"We felt it was important enough to get this out," Sandell said. "That's what prompted the report in the New York Times."

Douglas White, chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation, wants government to take decisive action to control what now appears to be a widening virus problem.

The disease is known to be associated with Atlantic salmon farmed commercially around the world in such countries as Norway and in South America.

It is blamed for decimating fish stocks, causing an estimated $2 billion in damages to Chilean fish stocks.

White is urging the federal government, which has authority over ocean fish stocks, to take action.

"What's required at this point is for the issue to be treated with seriousness," said White.

"I'm praying our local salmon are not infected by this virus.

The Nanaimo River has suffered tremendously in the last century (and) I'm very concerned.

" Sandell said his biggest concern "is neither the U.S. or British Columbian government has jumped on this."