Deadly Virus Hits Salmon Farms


A deadly virus has hit one salmon farm on the west coast of Vancouver Island and has been found in a second one off the west coast of BC known as the Sunshine Coast. Over half a million fish have been killed in the Vancouver Island fish raising operation. The virus when it infects the farmed Atlantic salmon is always fatal. The infectious haemapoietic necrosis is occasionally found in wild Pacific salmon but is not a problem if they encounter the virus in low concentrations. The crowded, net farmed salmon on the other hand, build up viral particles in such numbers that the only solution is to take them out of the water and kill them. The storm of viral particles floats freely and is able to then infect the wild salmon.

There are 131 fish raising operations in the cold, clean Pacific coastal waters. Raising fish in open nets is a multi-million dollar business, mostly run by foreign owned corporations.There are fears that the epidemic will spread throughout the coast endangering the wild salmon.  The industry spokesperson, Mary Ellen Walling, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association is quoted:

“I don't think it's started yet on the east coast of the island but it will," she said. "The intention is that all of the farms will be tested."CanadianPress

The open-net method of raising commercial amounts of fish can most easily be compared to a beef feed lot. The fish are in crowded confined space, fed commercial food and because of their vulnerability to disease, kept on a regime of antibiotics.

Most coastal people are wise to the quality of wild salmon and refuse to eat the soft tissue(no real exercise) of the farmed, antibiotic dosed, artificially coloured fish. There is a price differential of course, with the industrially raised fish considerably cheaper. If you care about the food you eat always ask if the salmon is wild caught or farmed and refuse to eat the lesser quality. Check labels in your grocery store. If the salmon is wild caught it will say so.

There are huge environmental impacts from the industrial raising of fish in open nets. Sea mammals are attracted to the fish and are often killed or damaged by acoustics, diseases spread from the crowded pens to the wild salmon, Atlantic salmon escape occasionally from the pens and while the public has been assured they don’t breed in the Pacific, Atlantic salmon have been culled from local spawning beds. Wild fish are caught in massive numbers to turn into fish food, further causing a decline in the health of the oceans.

For more information about the impact of open-net fishing check out some of the following:

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