Sea sick: Another virus crashes Canada’s salmon farms

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Last month a virus broke out
in several open water salmon farms in British Columbia that has the
region’s fish farm owners scrambling to mitigate their losses. Called
infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN), the rabies-like virus was found
among salmon in floating net pens belonging to Mainstream Canada, the
biggest producer in the region. As a result, B.C. farms culled over
500,000 fish infected with IHN, which spreads rapidly and can kill up to
100 percent of a fish farm’s population. And it’s just the latest
disease scandal to hit the province’s salmon farming industry.

Critics of the industry say that the farms should have seen this
coming. Their own alarm bells have been ringing ever since Rick
Routledge, a professor at Simon Fraser University, claimed that wild
sockeye tested by his lab in 2011 showed
that another more serious virus, one that causes infectious salmon
anemia (ISA), was present in B.C. waters. The government seized his
samples and declared through their own testing that the virus was not
present (since a verified case of the disease would be treated like
other serious outbreaks such as mad cow disease under international
convention, this would be devastating to the industry. In 2007, ISA
caused a $2 billion loss to the Chilean salmon farming industry, and was found to be imported on Atlantic salmon eggs shipped from Norway).

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