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Island salmon farm culling fish after virus confirmed

May 16 2012

A salmon farm north of Tofino is preparing to kill its fish after tests confirmed infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus.

IHN, which presents no risks to humans, is naturally carried by Pacific salmon, trout and herring, which have developed a natural immunity, but can cause high mortality among Atlantic salmon.

"This is the first diagnosis of IHN among farmed Atlantic salmon in B.C. since 2003," said Gary Marty, B.C. Animal Health Centre fish pathologist.

The virus was discovered at Mainstream Canada's Dixon Bay farm during routine fish health tests, says a statement from Mainstream.

"The farm site has been isolated and is currently being prepared for depopulation, if deemed necessary upon completion of the investigation."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is investigating and a Fisheries and Oceans laboratory is conducting further tests.

"We are very concerned about this fish health event and are taking every step to make sure it is contained and any risks minimized," said Fernando Villarroel, managing director of Mainstream Canada.

"This shows our disease monitoring programs work. We were able to quickly detect IHN while in its early stages and react decisively."

Biologist Alexandra Morton, an opponent of open-net pen salmon farms who has done extensive work on salmon viruses, said she is pleased Mainstream is thinking of killing its fish and that the company has announced they detected the virus. However, Morton would like Mainstream to test wild fish in the area.

"When you have 600,000 fish with IHN in one area, it amplifies the disease," she said. "It's like being on a football field with someone with a cold and being with 600,000 people with colds."

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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