No confirmed cases of ISA in BC –

No confirmed cases of ISA in BC Published:  11 November, 2011

BASED on analysis conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), in close collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Province of British Columbia and the Atlantic Veterinary College, there have been no confirmed cases of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) in wild or farmed salmon in BC.

Testing in support of this investigation has been ongoing since mid-October, when a laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College reported that it had detected the virus.

DFO has tested all 48 samples received as part of the original reports and the results are all negative for the virus. These results are consistent with the findings of an independent laboratory in Norway, which also tested samples associated with this investigation and provided a report to the CFIA.

The CFIA says additional testing continues and results will be provided when ready. As part of the investigation, the CFIA and DFO are also looking at how the samples were collected, handled, transported and stored.

In recent years, over 5,000 wild and farmed salmon in BC have been tested by the Federal Government and the Province of BC and none have ever tested positive for the disease.

The CFIA, in collaboration with DFO and the Province of BC, is assessing the current testing levels for this virus in both wild and aquaculture populations in BC and will increase surveillance activities as required.

In Canada, infectious salmon anaemia is a “federally reportable disease” in Canada. This means that all suspected or confirmed cases must be immediately reported to the CFIA.

Under the CFIA’s National Aquatic Animal Health Programme, suspected federally reportable diseases such as infectious salmon anaemia must be confirmed at the DFO national reference laboratory.

The news that no ISA was detected in follow up testing of Pacific salmon samples by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was welcomed by British Columbia’s salmon farmers.

“This is a significant result for everyone involved: researchers, regulators, wild salmon advocates, salmon farmers and our coastal communities,” said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “After seeing the original news distributed in such an inflammatory way, we hope this update will allay those concerns.”

On Oct. 17, Simon Fraser University hosted a press conference claiming that positive results had been found in two of 48 smolt samples tested for ISAv.  In the follow up testing done by CFIA, all of those 48 smolts tested negative as did other samples collected by CFIA from researchers involved. Some samples were too degraded for testing to be completed.

The allegation that ISA had been found in BC was concerning to BC salmon farmers who, while confident that the extensive testing showed ISA is not on their farms, were worried about the possible effect of the virus which is harmful to Atlantic salmon. Pacific salmon are relatively immune to ISAv.

“This is a good example of why proper sampling, testing and reporting procedures are in place and should be followed: the unconfirmed report from Simon Fraser appeared to be designed to create as much hype as possible.  This has cost significant resources in time and money in emergency follow-up while also potentially impacting international markets for our business,” said Walling.

“We’re pleased to see the thorough way CFIA is following up, but are dismayed at the way campaigners used this to create fear about our operations,” said Walling.

The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon-farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.