Study links virus in wild salmon to fish farm exposure and stock decline

On December 13, 2017 the journal of Public Library of Science One published research that indicates the percentage of wild salmon infected with piscine reovirus (PRV) is much higher in wild salmon exposed to fish farms in BC than wild salmon not exposed to them.

Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance, made the following statement in response:

“This study indicates that PRV is highly prevalent in BC-grown farmed salmon, with 95 percent of farmed salmon purchased in BC supermarkets for this study testing positive for PRV, providing further evidence that the open-net cage salmon farming industry is a threat to BC wild salmon.

The study also revealed that approximately 40 percent of wild salmon and trout that travel on routes that pass fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, Lois Lake and the Discovery Islands are infected with PRV, whereas only 5 percent of wild fish on BC’s North Coast and in the Skeena and Nass rivers were PRV infected.

The PRV strain found in the study originated in Norway, and causes Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), which is a debilitating disease for salmon, impacting their health, strength and lifespan. If wild salmon aren’t strong enough to return to their spawning grounds in the Upper Fraser River, as this study suggests, salmon stocks will continue to decline. The current crisis in BC salmon populations, Chinook in particular, means that the 76 remaining endangered southern resident killer whales will continue to succumb to starvation and our region’s ecosystems will continue to be negatively impacted because our governments are unwilling to take action to remove the threat of open-net cage salmon farms from our coastal waters and transition this industry to closed containment.

Both the provincial and federal government must take steps to stop the transfer of infected salmon into our waters, and lead the creation and implementation of a needed transition plan to closed containment facilities. Our wild salmon and ecosystems can no longer take the strain that this industry imposes.”

For more information, contact:
Allison Murray
Communications Associate
T 604-442-1846