Tagged: piscine reovirus

Going Viral

Gazing out from the village of Tofino towards the rainforest-covered mountains of Clayoquot Sound, the view is spectacular. But who would imagine that just out of sight of town, 20 fish farms are tucked away up the emerald inlets, quietly polluting the pristine waters?

One of the challenges of rearing animals in close quarters is that disease can quickly spread through the population, wreaking havoc. We’ve all heard of avian flu outbreaks. Parents who send their kids to school understand this dynamic all too well.

There is a harmful, highly-contagious disease plaguing salmon farms here in BC. It comes from Norway, where open-net pen salmon farming first began decades ago. British Columbia is lagging behind Norway, but we are beginning to experience the same unsolvable problems they do. Norway has nearly destroyed their own wild salmon runs; but the Pacific Northwest still has marvellous wild salmon runs, unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV)
This disease is called Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV). Back in 2013 BC’s provincial veterinarian reported that 80% of BC salmon farms were infected with PRV. Ecojustice and independent biologist Alexandra Morton launched and won two PRV court cases; in 2015 and again in 2019. The judge ordered the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to use the precautionary principle, which would stop the issuing of licenses which contravene the Fisheries Act. DFO has to date failed to comply.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced on June 4th that his department will begin testing for PRV. But the devil is in the details: will the test results be made public? what will happen if the testing finds a positive? when will testing begin?

Some things are too important to leave up to government—especially if they’re not taking action. Clayoquot Action believes testing for PRV in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region is such a thing. To this end our Clayoquot Salmon Investigation program (CSI) has launched a new project called Going Viral. This summer our volunteers will be out in the Sound, doing citizen science with the goal of establishing whether or not PRV is currently present in Clayoquot, and on how many farms.

Presence of PRV was established in 2017 & 2018 when wildlife photographer Tavish Campbell dove under Creative Salmon’s processing plant to sample the blood water gushing out of the fish processing plant into Tofino Harbour. That blood contained fish tissues which tested positive for PRV. The perch feeding on that blood water were also sampled—they too tested positive.

No more PRV-infected fish in the sea
If the Going Viral study shows that salmon farms in Clayoquot are infected with PRV, people power can pressure governments and corporations to do the right thing—stop allowing PRV-infected fish to be put into open-net pens in the sea.

Ultimately, challenges such as PRV and the farm-related sea lice epidemic (which is devastating young wild salmon locally) will force companies like Cermaq and Creative to accept the obvious solution—get fish farms out of the sea. This will allow wild salmon populations to rebound, once again creating abundance for everyone living on the coast; from First Nations to bears to ancient cedars.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Creative Chinook sick

In 2011, the Cohen Commission convened special hearings on disease in salmon farms, forcing fish farm companies and the provincial and federal governments to make their disease data public. When Dr. Kristi Miller took the stand, she revealed that Tofino-based Creative Salmon had for seven years been dealing with an undiagnosed disease which was causing jaundice in their fish. They had asked her to investigate. Her study revealed that Creative’s Chinook salmon had Piscine reovirus (PRV). Continue reading

Wild juvenile Chum salmon loaded with salmon lice

Clayoquot salmon lice outbreak devastating

A massive outbreak of salmon lice in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is threatening to wipe out this year’s salmon runs. Cermaq’s documentation on salmon lice for April show that the numbers of salmon lice on seven of their fourteen Clayoquot farm sites are up to ten times higher than the threshold which requires treatment. The regulatory threshold is three motile salmon lice per farm fish.

There are 20 open net-pen salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound, all located on wild salmon migration routes. The salmon lice outbreak is occurring as wild salmon smolts are leaving Clayoquot’s rivers to begin their life at sea. Continue reading