CFIA issues ISA, lab delisting statement


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 8, 2013

Following the recent delisting of Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) as a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued the following statement to address its role in the delisting.

In Canada, infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) is a federally reportable disease. This means that all suspected cases must be immediately reported to the CFIA for follow-up investigation and testing. In late 2011, the former OIE reference laboratory at the AVC reportedly found evidence of ISA.

Because any suspected cases of ISA must be confirmed at a designated federal laboratory, the National Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory, overseen by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), conducted testing of fish samples. The positive test results reported by the AVC were not corroborated by the DFO laboratory.

Due to the differences observed in these test results, the CFIA conducted evaluations of both laboratories to assess their capability to reliably detect the ISA virus in accordance with accepted scientific standards. The evaluation conducted at the AVC identified concerns, which may have led to the questionable ISA test results. This information was shared with the OIE.

The OIE designates reference laboratory status based on a laboratory's ability to maintain the highest technical and operational standards.  The OIE undertook an independent audit of the AVC after another OIE member country also reported issues related to ISA test results from this laboratory.  The OIE audit, performed by an international panel of scientific experts, found a series of weaknesses affecting the quality of diagnoses performed at the AVC laboratory. The decision to delist this laboratory as an OIE reference laboratory was approved unanimously by the General Assembly of the OIE in May 2013.

The CFIA is committed to protecting the health of wild and farmed fish, and takes reports of ISA seriously. On the east coast of Canada, the CFIA has confirmed, responded to and posted findings of ISA publicly. The CFIA posts reports on all federally reportable diseases including ISA on a monthly basis.

As part of the CFIA's multi-year wild salmon disease surveillance initiative in British Columbia (BC), 4175 wild salmon samples were collected directly from BC waters, processing plants and enhancement hatcheries in March 2012. All of the samples have tested negative for ISA. The samples were also tested for either infectious haematopoietic necrosis (IHN) or infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) and these tests were also negative.

This surveillance initiative is led by the CFIA in partnership with many organizations, including DFO, the Province of British Columbia, First Nations groups, the aquaculture industry and the fishing and processing industry.

All sampling, testing and response activities associated with this surveillance initiative are based on internationally recognized science. They are also consistent with international guidelines and national aquatic animal health requirements. A full report of the surveillance initiative is available through the CFIA website.  

By the end of 2013, this surveillance program is expected to collect an additional 5,000 samples for testing. The CFIA is also finalizing its approach to evaluate ongoing farmed salmon testing activities in BC. The CFIA expects to begin the collection and testing of farmed Atlantic and Pacific salmon this fall.

As part of the CFIA's transparency initiative, additional information on this surveillance initiative and CFIA National Aquatic Animal Health Program, are available on the Agency's website at

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