New salmon virus found in farmed salmon: advocate
B.C. salmon farmers dispute claims
A wild salmon advocate says farmed salmon bought at several Vancouver area grocery stores tested positive for a newly identified Norwegian virus.
Alexandra Morton says HSMI, or Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation, appeared in 44 out of 45 fish bought at Superstore and T&T markets in February.
Because the fish were purchased from supermarkets, Morton says it's not clear where they came from.
"If these fish are not from B.C., we have a breach in food security protocol as this virus is going down drains into the ocean as people prepare them for cooking," she said.
"There is something very wrong when four women with shopping carts find this, but none of the regulatory agencies seem aware of it ... Weakening the heart of a fish that has to travel hundreds of kilometres against the Fraser River seems a bad idea."
Morton says the virus can spread easily from salmon farms to wild fish nearby. She says farmed salmon can recover from the virus but it can be lethal to wild salmon.
Morton is calling on the province to find out where the fish came from.
"We need to know, so we can go there and have a look at how the wild salmon are doing with this disease," she said. "Someone has to be testing the wild salmon for this."
B.C.'s salmon farmers, however, don't believe the fish tested positive for the virus.
"We are not seeing any indication of a virus with the impacts that she has described in the release," said Mary Ellen Wallin with the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.
"I think that it is probably quite unscientific to test samples from a supermarket. There is no research design, the fish have no internal organs to sample and there is a lot of opportunity for cross-contamination."
The HSMI virus was first detected in Norway and has spread to the United Kingdom and Chile.