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Fishyleaks Reveals: Government Knew of Pacific Salmon Virus for Years

Canadian Cover-Up on Infectious Salmon Virus
Fishyleaks’ today made public a secret Canadian Government report (believed to be from 2004) detailing 117 positive cases of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) in farmed Atlantic and wild Pacific salmon (sockeye, chinook and pink) from Southeast Alaska, the Bering Sea, Queen Charlotte Strait, the West Coast of Vancouver Island and Cultus Lake. 

According to the report, ISA was successfully sequenced and 22% of the salmon (over 500 samples) tested positive for ISA.  Over half of the positive tests were from the Fraser River – where 100% of the Cultus Lake sockeye tested positive for ISA (64 out of 64 samples).  10 out of 37 chinook caught ‘Inside East Alaska’ tested positive for ISA and 22 out of 40 chinook caught ‘Inside Vancouver Island (inlets)’ tested positive.  

Read the report in full via ‘Fishyleaks’ - download online here
Co-author of the report, Dr. Simon Jones of the Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, attempted to block the report’s release but another co-author, Dr. Fred Kibenge of the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, deemed it of current interest stating: “I think that this historical data may also clarify some of the issues around recent ISAV testing in BC.” 
The unpublished and undated report – “Asymptomatic Infectious Salmon Anaemia in juvenile Oncorhychus species from the North Pacific Ocean” - was made available last week (November 23) privately to participants in Canada’s judicial inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon (‘the Cohen Commission’) – in advance of a hearing on ISA on 15/16 December in Vancouver. 
A map included in report details the sampling locations across the Pacific Ocean – in U.S. and Canadian waters

“Someone should be going to jail over this,” said John Werring of the David Suzuki Foundation reacting to the report [1]
“Never in my over 20 years of doing my work have I seen such duplicity by our government.  The closest thing I can relate to is when whistle blowers in the US released documents showing that Tobacco companies knew their product harmed people.  This document (2004 draft) shows our government has known for years that ISAV has been in the Pacific and they have done nothing except cover it up. Appalling!”

According to the Government report, ISA virus found in the infected fish was “94% to 98% homologous with Canadian ISAV isolates and 92% to 93% with European ISAV isolates.”  ISA detected in chinook salmon “had an identity of 99.7% and 95.8% with ISAV isolates 810/9/99 from Norway and NBISA01 from New Brunswick, respectively”.  The ISA-infected farmed Atlantic salmon “had 98% identity to most Canadian ISAV isolates” and “93% identical to European isolates”.  The report concluded: “These results lead us to conclude that an asymptomatic form of ISA occurs among some species of wild Pacific salmon in the north Pacific.”

“Non-disclosure of ISA is an alarming abrogation of Canada’s international obligations to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), trade partners and to its neighbours in the United States, Russia and Japan who share valuable wild salmon resources,” said Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture.   “There is clearly enough scientific evidence to confirm ISA in British Columbia – indeed Canada should have reported ISA back in 2004.  The $3 billion question is whether ISA was imported into the North Pacific by Norwegian-owned salmon farming companies – as was the case in Chile.  This damning report – which identifies ISA isolates from Norway - opens up the floodgates to lawsuits, resignations and further investigations.” 
Whilst the Canadian Government has covered up ISA, the U.S. Government has taken swift action.  A press release issued by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell earlier this month (November 17) stated: “Today, the U.S. Senate passed legislation authored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that calls for an investigation and rapid response plan to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly salmon virus.  The Cantwell salmon virus amendment passed both the Senate and House on Thursday as part of the minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2112).  The legislation, backed by all eight U.S. Senators from the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, now heads to President Obama for his signature.”
President Obama may have cracked a joke about salmon in his State of the Union address earlier this year but the presence of a deadly virus in wild Pacific salmon caught in Southeast Alaska is no laughing matter – the 2010 wild salmon harvest in Alaska alone was valued at $553.9 million.  A 2009 report – “Pacific Salmon Fisheries Economic Valuation Report” – calculated that: “Of the total $USD 3 billion personal income generated from the salmon fishing industry in 2007, 43% was in the U.S., 32% in Russia, and 23% in Japan.  Wild salmon fisheries directly support an estimated 35 thousand jobs in 2007 in the North Pacific countries with about half in Alaska and the rest primarily in Japan and Russia” (read more online via ‘New Economic Report Reveals Salmon's $3 Billion Impact’). 
“That the Canadian Government failed to make public such significant results is an affront to the scientific and international community (especially the Alaskan and Russian authorities since many of the samples were caught in Southeast Alaska and the Bering Sea),” said Staniford, co-author of ‘A Stain Upon the Sea’.  “Wild salmon do not respect international boundaries – with B.C. sockeye, chum, chinook, pink and coho salmon migrating throughout the Pacific Ocean mingling with wild salmon stocks from Japan, Russia, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.  The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, will have some serious explaining to do when he next meets Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and President Obama of the United States. 
GAAIA today wrote to the Canadian Government demanding an independent investigation and resignations. 
“Heads should roll over this,” said Staniford.  “DFO staff who buried this report should resign including the head of the Pacific Biological Station, the Pacific Region’s Director of Science and the Minister of Fisheries.  The failure of DFO to submit this vital report to the Cohen Commission earlier this year when Dr. Simon Jones testified (September 6) is criminal.  This report found the deadly ISA virus in 100% of the Fraser River’s Cultus Lake sockeye tested yet DFO kept it secret from Justice Cohen and the Canadian public who are paying for this $25 million judicial inquiry.”    
Fishyleaks is of the view that it is in the overriding public interest for a Canadian Government report – funded by the taxpayer - to be made freely available publicly without delay and without a gagging order.  Lawyers and participants with standing at the Cohen Commission are obliged to keep documents private and were forced to sign an ‘Undertaking of Confidentiality’.  Fishyleaks feels that it is an insult to the public, who are footing the $25 million bill for this judicial inquiry, to be expected to wait until December 15-16 when the evidentiary hearing on ISA takes place in Vancouver (details online here- more background here). 
Read more details via “Fishyleaks: Canadian Cover-Up on Infectious Salmon Virus


Don Staniford: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Chronology of a Cover-Up in Canada: ISA in British Columbia” (November 25)
Positively Negative - How the CFIA Failed to Defuse ISA in BC” (November 9)
ISA Spreads to Fraser River Chinook and Chum Salmon; European strain in Coho; Confirmed in Sockeye” (November 2)
Fishyleaks: ISA reported in coho salmon in the Fraser River” (October 31)
Nightmare on the Fraser River” (October 31)
The Man With the Smoking Gun” (October 24)
ISA – Diary of Disease Disaster” (October 2011)
Fish Farmageddon – The Infectious Salmon Aquacalypse” (August 2011)
Notes to Editors:


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