Nfld. & Labrador

Delay destroying infected salmon questioned

A salmon-farming critic is raising questions about the delay to destroy 450,000 infected salmon at a Gray Aqua site near Conne River.
A biologist is questioning why 450,000 farmed salmon, like those from the undated file photo above, have not been destroyed after testing positive for infectious salmon anemia last week. (CBC)

A salmon-farming critic is raising questions about the delay to destroy 450,000 infected salmon at a Gray Aqua site near Conne River.

The fish are infected with salmon anemia — a disease that kills fish, but is said to be harmless to humans.

Last week, federal officials ordered the farmed fish to be destroyed, but a plan to do that is still being worked out.

"That's really shocking because they should have a mass mortality plan in place. I can't believe you have an industry in Newfoundland where they have been allowed not to do that," said Alexandra Morton, a British Columbia biologist and expert on the impact that salmon farming has on wild salmon.

Morton said the affected fish are extremely infectious. She said the longer they are in the water, the greater the chances the infection will spread to other farmed salmon or wild fish.

"When this virus spread from Norway to Chile, they were dragging their feet and they lost $2 billion because it spread so fast once it had mutated, so getting out of the water is the only path they can take."

Morton said it's imperative officials find out if the disease is spreading through the wild fish or the farmed salmon.

She said the infection is an influenza virus that mutates rapidly and well.

"The only way any one in the world treats this disease right now is to kill the farmed salmon as fast as possible."