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Morton: 'Pestilence loosed upon BC' with second diseased salmon

Posting on her blog on October 29, wild-salmon advocate Alexandra Morton said a "pestilence is loosed upon BC" with the confirmation that a second wild salmon, caught in the Fraser River, had died of Infectious Salmon Anemia.

Morton cited an article published in The New York Times on October 28:

The fish the New York Times is talking about is one that a small group of us picked up, sampled and sent to the world reference lab for the ISA virus. It was a beautiful coho salmon, in first blush of spawning colours. The salmon had navigated the river as a tiny fry, entered the sea as a fat and sassy little smolt eating everything in sight.

It traveled north and west in search of the saltiness of the ocean and in doing so passed millions of European salmon in pens. Whether it got infected then or on the way home carrying the richness of a life at sea, her body shut down infected with a virus her ancestors never had a chance to prepare her for. We found her drifting dead downstream passing Harrison Mills. We scooped her up, took a sliver of her heart and gills, and sent them to one of the world authorities on ISA virus.

"It's serious," Morton told The Tyee in an interview. "The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not on this. I've read all their emails. They're not looking out for our fish. All they know how to do is deny."

Morton said she was asking fishers to look for dead or sick fish that might be sampled.

"I started sobbing when I read about the second fish," she told The Tyee. To find two ISA samples in wild salmon separated by 600 km implies much more widespread infection.

In her blog post, Morton called for an independent scientific board to test for ISA in "the entire eastern Pacific."

ISA virus becomes increasingly virulent in captive environments - this means fish farms and hatcheries. Painful, I know, but read the literature. 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. But I can tell you we won't do this unless every man, woman and child who cares raises their voice in every way they legally and peacefully can in defense against this influenza-type virus.

Coincidentally, Carlos Odebret, the director of SalmonChile, said in a recent news report that his organization is working for "the mitigation of a strain similar to ISA" which is threatening Atlantic salmon in Chile's fish farms.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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