The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it has been unable to confirm the presence of a potentially lethal fish virus in B.C. salmon, despite previous findings by a world renowned expert on the virus.
Infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, was first detected in wild B.C. salmon two months ago by Simon Fraser University Prof. Rick Routledge, putting the federal food agency and B.C.'s fish farming industry on high alert.
But Cornelius Kiley, a spokesperson for the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), says the federal government's lab has been unable to duplicate the results using the same samples.
"Based upon the final results that have been completed, there are no confirmed cases of the disease virus in wild or farmed salmon in British Columbia," he said.
Kiley and other senior officials with the CFIA and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are refusing to speculate on the scientific discrepancies.
"We may never be able to say definitively one way or the other as to what occurred," they told CBC.
But Alexandra Morton, a fish biologist who has lobbied hard for the end of B.C.'s fish farms, takes little comfort from Friday's results.
"If you went to three doctors and two of them said you had a life threatening disease and the third said you did not, would you take confidence in that and go on your merry way, or would you try to figure out why there was a difference in these three labs?"
The alleged presence of ISA in B.C. salmon stocks is so controversial because it had never before been found in salmon off B.C.'s coast, either in the Atlantic species that are raised in ocean pens or in B.C.'s indigenous wild salmon.
The virus is known to be devastating to farmed Atlantic salmon and opponents of the fish farm industry have suggested farmed fish could spread it to wild stocks, with catastrophic results.
The CFIA says it is examining how things were done in the labs that got the different results. The crisis has also prompted the agency to develop a regular surveillance program for the devastating virus that it expects to have in place as early as next spring.