Farmed and Dangerous Blog

Archive for the ‘Environmental Impacts’ Category

ISA test results inconclusive

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The BC Salmon Farmers are crowing over today’s media conference announcing the results of further testing for the ISA virus in Pacific salmon. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the salmon farming industry’s public relations division – aka DFO Aquaculture Branch – tried their best to sound neutral and unbiased but were clearly pleased to report their findings to date. But not so fast (spin) doctors.

If you listened to the first few minutes of the media conference call there was nothing but good news. According to Dr. Con Kiley, Director of National Aquatic Animal Health with CFIA, there are no confirmed cases of ISA in either wild or farmed salmon in BC, all the samples received were thoroughly tested, all tests were negative and basically, we can all relax. There is no cause for concern.

That would be great news. ISA in the Pacific ocean could have tragic and truly devastating consequences if the disease were to mutate or prove to be virulent. Today’s announcement from the CFIA, DFO and the BC government was very reassuring – up to about the 10 minute mark.

I started getting very worried again when Kiley noted that “these supplementary results must be considered inconclusive because of the poor quality of the samples.” Say what? Inconclusive?

The spin-doctoring started seriously unravelling when a reporter from the Seattle Times asked if Canadian government officials would be willing to share raw samples with US researchers if they wanted to do their own testing (audio credit: Hmmm – seems our friends to the south are as suspicious of DFO and CFIA’s cosy partnership with the fish farming industry as Canadians are.

Peter King, who heads up the Moncton DFO laboratory that did the re-testing of the samples responded (and I quote): “For the most part these samples are either partially – and I say over the half way mark – or totally, totally degraded. Sharing those samples would not be good science. They are in poor condition, we received them in poor condition and moving them anywhere else is not going to help anybody.” He talks about the storage of the samples and the degradation of RNA, then goes on to say: “That’s why we call things inconclusive – because the degradation is so bad you cannot form an opinion from a test standpoint as to whether or not you are capable or not capable. The fact that they come up negative doesn’t really mean anything because they are so badly degraded.”

The negative test “doesn’t really mean anything”?

CFIA’s Kiley tries to regain control of the spin: “Or that you get a result that’s positive.”

King acknowledges “That’s a possibility too – that’s why we have to go to confirmatory testing…”

So given the huge uncertainty, surely our federal agencies are now working hard to get to the bottom of this? If the samples are poor quality, they must have a plan to immediately secure more and better samples? If the results are inconclusive and they can’t categorically rule out the presence of ISA then they’ll be spending sleepless nights putting together a testing program to make certain our wild salmon are not exposed to this disease.

Dr. Kiley advises DFO and CFIA are “assessing current testing levels for ISA in both wild and aquaculture populations in BC” and will “increase surveillance activities as required”. But they are acting quickly, right? Kiley replies there are ideal times of year for tests and based on the species and where they want to test they will decide what will be done and when.

So the spin will be ‘no ISA in BC’ while the reality is the tests are totally inconclusive, ISA might be present or it might not, the salmon farmers continue to do their own sampling and testing (but are ‘sharing’ the results of their in-house fish health audits with the Province) and the Canadian government agencies are going to move at a glacial pace before doing anything because after all – what’s the rush? It’s only our wild salmon and the continued functioning of our Pacific coast ecosystem that’s on the line.

At the end, a reporter introduces herself as Roxanne from the Yukon News and asks if there is further testing done, would it come north and perhaps include the Yukon River? Dr. Kiley replies: “No, we do our investigation in Canadian waters.” Now I’m reassured – Canada’s best are on the job.

Credit: This post was originally published here on the Living Oceans Society blog.

Are ‘Frankenfish’ headed for grocery store shelves in Canada?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Aquabounty salmon vs. normal salmon

Q: What do you get when you mix the genes of an Atlantic salmon, a Chinook salmon and an ocean pout?

A: The latest in the world of salmon farming – the “Frankenfish”. It’s a genetically engineered construct with a voracious appetite and a growth rate twice that of any natural salmon. An American company, AquaBounty, is trying to bring the fish to market. (more…)

Salmon farming industry puts wild salmon at increased risk by reactivating farm along Wild Salmon Narrows migration route

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Fifty-five organizations and thousands of concerned citizens have been calling for the removal of five salmon farms along Okisollo and Hoskyn Channels on the north and east side of Quadra Island, a critical Fraser River sockeye migration route. This call was supported by the conclusions of a think tank of scientists who convened at Simon Fraser University in 2009 to discuss the potential causes of the Fraser River sockeye collapse. Included in their recommendations was the experimental removal of salmon farms along Fraser River sockeye migration corridors. (more…)

Evidence continues to mount linking net pen salmon farms to declines in wild fish

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Coho salmon with louse infection by Stan Proboszcz

Two new sea lice papers published online in the Journal of Applied Ecology suggest that sea lice from salmon farms may be dramatically affecting the health of coho salmon populations in the Broughton Archipelago. (more…)

Abundant Fraser sockeye returns in 2010 not a sign of general recovery

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Record returns of some Fraser River sockeye stocks have been making headlines over the past few weeks. With an estimated 34 million expected to return, this is in stark contrast to last year’s dismal return of only 1.5 million. While we celebrate, it’s important to remember that one good return year against a background of steady decline in Fraser sockeye over more than a decade does not signal recovery. (more…)

Chemical sea lice treatments on salmon farms and their unknown effects on the ecosystem

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Sea lice are a problem for salmon farms worldwide. These parasitic crustaceans (which are related to crabs and shrimp) attach to fish and feed on their mucus and tissue, harming the industry’s product. To minimize economic losses, companies use a variety of pesticides to combat sea lice, each with their own disconcerting set of problems. (more…)

Time for DFO to stand up and deliver

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

The way the B.C. government and the province’s fish farm industry do business you’d expect them to be guarding nuclear secrets, not salmon tissue samples. Yet, time and time again, they break out the cloak and dagger routine, twisting themselves up in knots to prevent industry information – specifically about disease and sea lice infestations on farms – from being made public. The question is why? (more…)