Cooke admits Shelburne salmon farm quarantined

Cooke Aquaculture has confirmed that its operation in Shelburne Harbour, N.S., is the source of the suspected cases of a destructive virus Infectious Salmon Anemia.

Cooke Aquaculture has confirmed that its operation in Shelburne Harbour, N.S., is the location of an Infectious Salmon Anemia quarantine.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency quarantined the Cooke facility earlier this month while it carried out tests for the destructive virus. Cooke destroyed thousands of salmon as a precaution.

CFIA did not identify the farm under quarantine and for two weeks, Cooke had declined to answer the question.

Nell Halse, Cooke's vice-president for communications, said the company is admitting one of its Shelburne operations is under quarantine because aquaculture opponents have falsely claimed ISA is present at other Cooke salmon farms in Nova Scotia.

"As you know, the fish have now been removed and the rest of the farm is under heightened bio-security and testing protocols," Halse said in an email to CBC.

"That means that only authorized vessels and personnel are allowed on site. This is not any different from procedures that would be put in place on any farm."

'False accusations' prompted admission

Halse said a group called the St. Mary's Bay Coalition had sent out "an incredible list of false accusations" Tuesday about Cooke's operation in St. Mary's Bay. Farms in the bay do not have ISA, he said.

"This irresponsible fear-mongering prompted me to acknowledge what most people in the communities already know: that the two suspect cages were in the Shelburne area," he said.

"We are all still waiting for CFIA's final test results and diagnosis, but we did not wait for these results to take the actions that our experience with ISA in other areas has taught us were the right proactive measures."

Cooke has several operations in Shelburne, but it would not specify which farm was affected.   

Infected Salmon Anemia affects wild and farmed salmon. It is not a danger to humans. It was last detected in Nova Scotia in 2003.