Did ISA exist off B.C. coast as early as 2002?
A U.S. fisheries scientist says he has briefed at least one senator and several colleagues on an unpublished Canadian research paper that found a potentially devastating salmon virus existed off British Columbia's coast as early as 2002.
The paper obtained by The Canadian Press surveyed chum, coho, pink and sockeye salmon from the west coast of Vancouver Island, Southeast Alaska, and the Bering Sea between August 2002 and April 2003.
The paper was authored by scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island and concluded an asymptomatic form of infectious salmon anaemia was occurring in some wild-salmon species in the north Pacific.
The presence of so-called ISA is hugely controversial because Fisheries officials have said there is no clear evidence that it exists in wild B.C. salmon stocks.
The virus is known to be devastating to farmed Atlantic salmon and opponents of the fish farm industry have suggested farmed fish could spread it to wild stocks, with catastrophic results. The issue of the virus is considered so sensitive that a judge holding a federal inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River salmon run in 2009 has designated two extra days in December to hear submissions on the matter.
“I think this paper, you know, is admittedly an early draft and was probably not intended for much distribution at his stage,” said James Winton, a fish-health specialist working for the United States Geological Survey in Seattle, Wash.
“However, the paper to me stands the test of science, and I think if it were polished up it should be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal and let the reviewers, you know, have at it.”