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Report indicates seven-year coverup of Infectious Salmon Anemia in BC salmon

A report released today indicates that the Canadian government has been aware for years that Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAV) has existed on the B.C. coast.

Published on the blog Super Heroes 4 Salmon, the report was written by Molly Kibenge, Simon Jones, Garth Traxler, and Frederick Kibenge.

The introduction to the report said:

Information kept secret from the Canadian public and the international community relates to 117 positive tests for ISA in farmed Atlantic and wild Pacific salmon from Southeast Alaska, the Bering Sea, Queen Charlotte Strait, the West Coast of Vancouver Island and Cultus Lake between August 2002 and April 2003.

Such non-disclosure by the Canadian Government constitutes a breach of Canada's international obligations to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), trade partners and to its neighbours in the United States, Russia and Japan who have valuable wild salmon resources.

The abstract of the report, titled "Asymptomatic infectious salmon anaemia in juvenile Onchorhynchus species from the North West Pacific Ocean," says:

Juvenile chinook (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha), chum (O. meta), coho (O. kisutch), pink (O. gorbuscha) and sockeye salmon (O. nerka) from the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Southeast Alaska, and the Bering Sea were surveyed between August 2002 and April 2003 for infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV).

Spawning sockeye from the Cultus Lake and Kokanee from Lois Lake, BC population was also sampled. Pooled or individual tissues were tested by RT-PCR, nucleotide sequencing and virus isolation. ISAV segment 8 was amplified from 34 of 121 (28%) chinook and 15 of 88 (17%) pink salmon caught off the West Coast Vancouver Island and southeast Alaska. ISAV segment 8 was also amplified from all 64 spawning sockeye and one cultured Asiatic salmon.

The 220bp RT-PCR products were 94% to 98% homologous with Canadian ISAV isolates and 92% to 93% with European ISAV isolates. A product of 377 bp was obtained with Segment 7 ORF1 products were obtained in 5 chinook fish and the nucleotide sequence corresponded to ISAV segment 7 ORF2 products and was 95.7% identical to NBISA01 control isolate (Canadian isolate) and 99.7% identity to an ISAV isolate 810/9/99 from Norway.

ISAV segments 2, 6 and full opening frame for segment 8 were not amplified nor was ISAV isolated onto SHK or CHSE and ASK-2 cells. These results lead us to conclude that an asymptomatic form of ISA occurs among some specifies of wild Pacific salmon in the north Pacific.

The blog post also included some response to this report, which is believed to have been written in 2004:

"Someone should be going to jail over this," said John Werring of the David Suzuki Foundation reacting to the report. "Never in my over 20 years of doing my work have I seen such duplicity by our government. The closest thing I can relate to is when whistle blowers in the US released documents showing that Tobacco companies knew their product harmed people. This document (2004 draft) shows our government has known for years that ISAV has been in the Pacific and they have done nothing except cover it up. Appalling!"

The report has also been discussed in media such as Seattle Weekly, Seattle Times, and many other newspapers across the US.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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