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Canadian Food Inspection Agency Deer in the Headlights of ISA Virus in Farmed Salmon

Dear CFIA why are you ignoring ISA virus?
by Alexandra Morton
There is an article featuring my work on the cover of the Seattle Times today. Below is a letter sent to The Canadian Food Inspection Agency today:
Dear Nathalie Bruneau: On May 14, 2012, I attended the CFIA meeting in Port Hardy, to inform First Nations of the CFIA surveillance initiative to "provide additional evidence to update the status of three diseases of significance in anadromous salmonid populations in BC."
ISA virus is one of the three diseases of significance listed by the CFIA in this initiative. You asked First Nations to contact the CFIA if they saw evidence of the 3 viruses of concern. You informed us the ISA virus is your file.

At this meeting, I asked you what follow-up the CFIA had engaged in after receiving positive test results from an OIE reference lab for ISA virus in BC farmed salmon I bought in T & T markets in Vancouver BC earlier this year. Dr. Fred Kibenge, who runs the OIE reference lab for ISA virus, reported the HPR7b and HPR5 mutations. The owner of the supermarket chain, Loblaw, confirmed these fish had been reared in British Columbia net pens.

You responded that there has been no follow up by the CFIA to these ISA virus positive tests.
I also related to you that the OIE reference lab had sequenced HPR5 from a female chum salmon in the Vedder River. The Vedder River receives water from Cultus Lake, where DFO got 100% ISAv test results in sockeye salmon, but never released those results to the Cohen Commission Inquiry into the Decline of the Fraser Sockeye, nor followed up with any subsequent tests as per the testimony of Dr. Simon Jones of the Pacific Biological Station. Again you indicated there had been no follow up. I asked if there had been follow-up on the ISAv positive results produced by the DFO Miller Lab in the Creative Salmon farms at Dawley and Indian sites, again I heard you say there had been no follow by the CFIA.

Dr. Con Kiley was attending by phone and indicated that the CFIA was aware of these test results. I know the OIE lab is reporting to the CFIA.

I am writing to ask for clarification. When an OIE reference lab reports several PCR positives for virulent ISA virus mutations from a group of salmon, in this case fresh salmon for sale in one supermarket chain, on one date, in one region (the city of Vancouver) is the accepted international protocol to ignore the results?

We did discuss this briefly during the meeting and you expressed concern that I did not have chain of custody. However, when people suffer ingestion of e. coli, for example, from supermarkets the CFIA investigates despite lack of chain of custody and identifies the source of the pathogen. Documentation does accompany each shipment of BC farm salmon to the stores that would allow the CFIA to trace it to a farm and run their own tests.

In reading International Response to Infectious Salmon Anemia: Preventaion, Control and Eradication, the authors make it sound like this is a serious disease that the world wants to control.

Since the US shares marine waters with BC and BC is shipping the product fresh over the border to the US, this seems an international issue. There is also the issue of Washington State eggs travelling to Chile. Until there is follow up testing, the way things stand today a BC salmon farm or farms has or had ISA virus positive fish infected with highly virulent strains held in net pens somewhere in BC.

The Minister of Agriculture Don McRae has tabled a Bill that legal minds in BC believe will prevent me from further testing and reporting ISAv and the piscine reovirus which is highly prevalent in BC farm salmon in supermarkets. I am writing this letter today, because it may be a punishable offence in BC to write you later this week about ISA virus in salmon purchased in T & T Supermarkets in Vancouver.

So with this letter I am asking for confirmation that the CFIA is ignoring ISAv positive tests from the OIE reference lab and I would like to understand more fully why. My concern is for the wild salmon of British Columbia and perhaps I misunderstand the regulations, does the CFIA only respond to pathogens known to harm humans?


Alexandra Morton
Update: Virus Spreading - Law to suppress disease reports coming to BC

Petition regarding farm salmon diseases

On May 25 Mainstream posted that another farm nearby called Bawden is infected with IHN, and the say they will send these to market because they are bigger than the ones at the previous farm. This farm is just south of Dixon. We don't know how they are going to move these fish. How will the blood-water be contained. The picture below is 90 feet down at the end of a fish farm processing plant on Quadra Island. Hopefully containment will be better than this. The black cloud is blood.

Walcan outflow pipe WS

As the days pass more and more sites are testing positive for IHN, including two Atlantic salmon farms in Washington State and a sockeye hatchery.


US Groups are Concerned About Bill 37 proposed by Provincial Minister Don This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Wild Fish Conservancy Press Release.

There is a lot of conflicting information about McRae's proposed bill 37

Paul Kitching, Chief Veterinary Officer for B.C. says says critics don't need to fear retribution for speaking publicly about disease

But the Executive Director of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association wrote to me that I should be concerned because, "The definitions are very broad and the penalties are being specially set at well beyond the level of other offences.

The intention is clearly to prevent any release of information re. disease outbreaks and to severely punish anyone who does release that information."

The Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia wrote a strong letter to McRae suggesting the Bill be amended

"The Bill would override the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”) and remove the public’s right to access various records regarding animal testing, including actions and reports relating to animal disease management."

"Your interpretation that FIPPA is out of step with other jurisdictions, or is overly onerous, is not supported by our research."

Andrew Gage, West Coast Environmental Law suggests Minister McRae is misrepresenting the Bill to the BC Legislature in his answers to MLA Lana Popham and The Tyee: "Please  be  aware  that  the  information  you  provided  to  the  Legislature  on  the  section’s  intent  does  not   reflect how a court is likely to interpret the provision."
Download McRae25May2012 copy.pdf (210.1K)

On March 27 Minister McRae told the BC Parliament our reports of ISA virus had almost shut down farm salmon trade to the US and Asia.

"My memory of the time when ISA was first talked about from the lab in P.E.I [Oct 2011 sockeye smolts]… There were lawmakers and legislators in the United States — various states bordering British Columbia — and some legislators in Asia who at that time were speculating and pushing for closing our market share.
It just reminds me, as well, that you do not want to give a nation a reason to close the border to a B.C. product without having all the facts. Again, if we had followed the protocols accordingly, I think it would have been more appropriate in terms of making sure we did not threaten our international markets.
" (HANSARD, March 27, 2012, Afternoon)

Now Minister McRae is telling the media and the BC Legislature that his Bill would not stop people like me, but BC's Privacy Commissioner and lawyers disagree.

Is Minister McRae ignorant of the sinister power of his bill to keep people ignorant of viruses in their food?

This bill could pass next week please consider signing a petition that is growing rapidly and check back here for updates
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