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Salmon cull costing fish farms millions

Aug 11 2012

Two B.C. salmon farming companies are looking at losses amounting to millions of dollars as fish are culled from sites where a potentially deadly virus was found.

Atlantic salmon from Grieg Seafood's Culloden Point fish farm in Jervis Inlet, on the Sunshine Coast, and from Mainstream Canada's farm at Millar Channel in Clayoquot Sound are being culled after confirmation of the infectious haematopoetic necrosis virus, or IHN.

The virus, which is endemic in Pacific salmon but does not make them sick, can kill Atlantic salmon. IHN has no effect on human health.

The cull was ordered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to prevent the spread of IHN to other farm sites.

All of the salmon have now been removed from Culloden Point. The operation is ongoing at the Millar Channel farm.

"The fish were 400 grams and there were about 400 tonnes. Financial losses are expected to be in the millions," said Mainstream spokeswoman Laurie Jensen.

Grieg has destroyed about 316,000 fish, said the company's managing director, Stewart Hawthorn. Financial losses have not yet been evaluated, he said.

"Our focus this week has been on farming responsibly - humanely treating our animals, by removing them before they became sick, and eliminating the risk of us transferring the virus to other farms, by removing the fish before most of them became infected by the IHN virus," Hawthorn said.

"These salmon are our passion and our livelihood, but doing the right thing has been our priority and this has involved some tough choices."

Both companies say they are looking at their insurance coverage and will explore with CFIA whether any government assistance programs are available.

"Compensation has been paid to other farming sectors, due to issues such as avian flu and BSE, so this may be available to our farming sector as well," Hawthorn said.

Both farms will be cleaned and disinfected. The CFIA quarantine will then remain in place for another two weeks.

However, the industry voluntarily keeps affected sites empty for another three months, Hawthorn said.

Jensen said Mainstream would consider production needs before deciding when to restock.


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