British Columbia

B.C. salmon virus tests find no infectious anemia

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says tests on 48 wild salmon samples have found no cases of infectious salmon anemia in B.C.

Tests on 48 wild salmon samples have found no cases of infectious salmon anemia in B.C., a Canadian Food Inspection Agency official says.

The tests the Fisheries Department did were verified by an independent lab in Norway, said Con Kiley, director of the agency's national aquatic animal health program.

The samples were tested after a laboratory at the University of Prince Edward Island suspected the highly infectious salmon anemia in juvenile sockeye from Rivers Inlet on B.C.'s central coast.

Paul Kitching, the chief veterinary officer for B.C., said anyone who says the virus is present in the province based on the PEI results involving such a small sample size is misrepresenting the science.

"I can also say that as editor-in-chief of an international veterinary journal, this would be considered poor science and not likely publishable."

The ongoing Cohen Commission, which is studying what caused the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run in 2009, will hold two days of hearings next month to put details of the virus on record.

Fred Kibenge, the P.E.I. scientist who made the findings, has not commented on them and has repeatedly deferred calls to the food inspection agency.

Rick Routledge, a Burnaby, B.C.-based Simon Fraser University researcher, said he sent the P.E.I. lab the 48 samples from Rivers Inlet.

Testing questioned

However, he said the testing done in Norway leaves some questions.

"He got one positive test result he couldn't repeat," likely because the samples were of poor quality, Routledge said.

"I feel that what is needed more than anything else is that more fresh samples be collected under rigorous protocols," he said, adding he didn't freeze his samples in ideal conditions because the temperature wasn't cold enough.

Opponents of B.C.'s aquaculture industry have said the presence of infectious salmon anemia could be the "smoking gun" to link wild salmon decline with fish farms.

A European strain of the virus devastated fish farms in Chile, but it's not clear whether the virus affects wild salmon.