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Atlantic salmon in Lower Mainland markets test positive for ISA virus: Morton

Atlantic salmon purchased in three Lower Mainland supermarkets have tested positive for Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAV), according to biologist and wild-salmon advocate Alexandra Morton. While ISAV is not known to harm humans, it poses a threat to both farmed and wild salmon.

In a new post on her blog, Morton wrote:

Today I received ISA virus positive test results from the international ISA virus OIE Reference lab in eastern Canada.

The ISA virus positive fish were 5 Atlantic salmon I purchased from three different T & T supermarkets around the lower mainland and one chum salmon from the Vedder River. There is no evidence ISA virus harms humans.

These samples were in much better condition than the Rivers Inlet sockeye smolts that tested positive last year, and so further testing is underway to sequence the virus. Once completed this will better inform us of where this virus is coming from.

When my colleagues and I got ISA virus positive test results last December, the BC Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Don McRae, said: "Reckless allegations based on incomplete science can be devastating to these communities and unfair to the families that make a living from the sea. Since Premier Clark is currently on a trade mission to China, I have personally asked her to reassure our valued trading partners that now as always BC can be relied upon as a supplier of safe, sustainable seafood."

Now we have ISA virus positive results from a Chinese supermarket chain in BC. The gills were intact in these fish and from speaking with the people behind the seafood counter we believe these fish were reared in BC marine feedlots. The CFIA will be able to tell us where they came from, or perhaps the market will let us know. If these fish were shipped in from outside BC they should not have had the gills left in them.

Morton's blog post cites a March 12 Canadian Food Inspection Agency release about other tests finding ISAV in BC fish samples, and she goes on to say: "Detection of the virus does not mean that the fish have the disease, similar to being HIV positive does not mean you have AIDS. ... There is strong evidence this virus is European strain."

Speaking to The Tyee, Morton said: "How could DFO not find it? I caught these fish with a shopping cart." She added that her first action on learning of the test results was to notify the First Nations.

Outbreaks of ISAV in Chilean fish farms have devastated the industry there, and ISAV was found earlier this month in a fish farm in Shelburne Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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