A Fraser River coho salmon collected in October by biologist Alexandra Morton

A Fraser River coho salmon collected in October by biologist Alexandra Morton

Salmon inquiry to reopen hearings into virus reports

Fish farms, critics trade shots over initial ISA test results

The Cohen inquiry will hear more evidence in December to weigh reports that a deadly salmon virus has infected multiple species of wild salmon on the B.C. coast.

The commission into the decline of Fraser River sockeye had ended hearings in September and began taking final submissions Friday.

But commission counsel Brian Wallace said the inquiry will reconvene for two more days of testimony in mid-December.

“Testing of samples of Pacific salmon from two areas of the province has indicated the possible presence of the Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus in several Pacific salmon,” Wallace said.

More results are expected within a month, he said, adding the inquiry has asked for the latest test results and information on the fish.

The first reported detection of ISA in two sockeye smolts sampled along the central coast was disclosed by SFU researcher Rick Routledge in early October, after the inquiry stopped hearing witnesses, including experts on salmon diseases.

Independent biologist and anti-fish farm activist Alexandra Morton said three more salmon taken from lower Fraser tributaries – a chinook, a coho and a chum – also tested positive for ISA virus.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is analyzing the samples and has not yet confirmed any of the positive tests.

News of the potential ISA infection has rocked the B.C. salmon industry, raising the spectre stocks here may be hit with an ISA outbreak of the type that have ravaged Chilean and European fish farms.

Fisheries critics fear the virus is loose in the wild and will be able to infect net pen Atlantic salmon farms – if they are not there already – and pose a continuing threat to wild salmon stocks.

“All these fish farms need to close down now,” Morton said, adding ISA becomes more virulent in captive environments like fish farms and hatcheries.

“The only hope is to turn off the source, stop crowding fish together and let this thing burn through the wild Pacific like a forest fire and extinguish itself. That’s it, there is no other option.”

Morton also wants a B.C. lab established to test for ISA and that it be overseen by an international board.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association said it has sampled thousands of fish from its members’ farms without finding any ISA.

But critics like Morton don’t trust industry-controlled tests.

And U.S. senators from Washington and Alaska have also called for independent tests, suggesting Canadian officials may be too close to the $400-million aquaculture industry.

Mainstream Canada, an aquaculture firm, said in a statement independent re-testing of the first reported samples has come back inconclusive.

It cited a Norwegian researcher who was unable to replicate the earlier results and cautioned a weak positive result can reflect a different virus with a similar genetic profile.

Mainstream said it’s critical to wait for the CFIA tests to give the final word and accused Morton of “spreading fear and concern without any basis in fact.”

ISA has mainly been a disease of farmed Atlantic salmon and the European strain can kill up to 90 per cent of infected fish.

Some researchers and aquaculture organizations say it may pose less of a threat to wild sockeye.

Just Posted

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Cover of the 32-page Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers, created and compiled by Jeska Slater.
New ‘Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers’ seeks to ‘uplift and amplify’ voices

32-page guide launched Tuesday by Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

Most Read