ISA - in times of uncertainty some folks just keep on talking

Fish farmers have seen this repeated many times before - when there is a void in science, activists are happy to fill it.

Case in point; as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is busy verifying the suspected Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) positive tests results reported by Simon Fraser University (SFU) at a press conference on October 17th, activists are busy pounding the incomplete message that “ISA is confirmed in Pacific salmon”. Completely ignoring interim lab results that clearly states “these results do not mean that the fish had ISA or ISAv or that either is present in the area where the subject fish came from.”

Don’t let facts get in the way of a headline grabber eh?

For activists, the tactic is almost too easy: own the airwaves during this time of uncertainty. Tell people that the virus is here despite no confirmation of such. Oh and then go one step further and suggest that the only “plausible source” of a virus must be salmon farms. Hit the message home again and again. Then, by the time some facts are actually known, the public will have already made its mind up.

But here’s where we salmon farmers can put a large caliber bullet through the “salmon farms is the source” story, ‘cause here’s a big fat fact: BC farmed salmon have been tested for ISA since 2003. Almost 5000 samples, verified to internationally recognized standards have confirmed the ISA virus is not present in BC farmed salmon.  BC farmed salmon also enjoy a 90%+ survival rate on farms – and that wouldn’t be the case if ISA was present. You see, ISA has a hate for the Atlantic species of salmon, but doesn’t seem at all bothered to harm Pacific salmon.

Now, knowing that it’s human nature to have a fall guy, let’s throw out a few “plausible” sources for the ISA virus to appease the masses;

  1. Historical Atlantic salmon import programs. Way back before salmon farming began on the Pacific Northwest coast, millions of Atlantic salmon eggs and fry were imported to rivers in Washington State and British Columbia. You can bet that the biosecurity rules were a little lax back in the mid 1900s.
  2. Bilge water. Large sea going vessels dump bilge water from all over the world.
  3. Sport fishing. Bugs can travel in fishing equipment and gear. Gyrodactylus salaris (a tiny creature with tiny claws commonly known as the “salmon killer”) was known to have been transported from Sweden to Norway by such means.
  4. Lack of border security in the ocean. It is a possibility that wild Pacific and wild Atlantic salmon have intermingled in the open ocean as they don’t really respect our manmade borders.
  5. Pacific salmon. Yes, they may have always had it. Perhaps we’ll know more when more work is done on historical samples.

We don’t expect any journalists to report on the feelings expressed in this blog (although we know one blog that they certainly do), but it sure would be nice if a few would just ask a few reasonable questions before simply cutting and pasting and calling it journalism.