Virus spreads from B.C. fish farms to wild Chinook salmon, study finds – Seattle Times

For years, Alexandra Morton, the leading scientist in documenting the effects of farmed salmon on wild salmon stocks, has been talking about the presence of piscine orthoreovirus in farmed salmon and it’s apparent devastating spread to wild stocks in British Columbia. It’s been a bit unclear whether fish from the United States have been impacted by it, but  “our” fish travel far and wide before returning home. If they got the disease they very likely would die before reaching their spawning grounds. Horrific footage done for her documentary film “Salmon Confidential” from 2013, documented what Alexandra claimed was Picene Orthorevirus.  She asked for help from researchers to validate what she was seeing. Now, researchers from the University of British Columbia and other organizations, using genomic techniques,  have documented the disease and warned against it’s spread.

Why does this matter to us on the Peninsula?  Locally,  a few years ago, in order to educate and warn on this issue, I brought this to the attention of the local Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, who has a member who is the local manager and spokesman for Taylor Shellfish. He denounced Alexandra in angry tones, and has used his bully pulpit to belittle her research to the committee, calling her a “fake scientist” and urging support for farmed fish in our waters. He never offered a shred of evidence to support his claims, and showed up at a public meeting with other members of his company to shout down a leading scientist and professor from British Columbia who spoke at a forum in Port Angeles a few years ago on the topic. The Committee, who’s charter it is to protect our local waters, has done little to challenge the claims of the member, who provides them with Olympia oyster brood stock for local recovery efforts.

While the shellfish and the fish farming industry, comprised of local tribes and international companies from Canada and Norway have continued to mount a propaganda and lobbying campaign at both the local and national level  to support fish farming, the evidence continues to mount of the cost to wild stocks. We have been told for decades of the wonders of farmed fish and of hatcheries, only to see native stocks continue to plummet. Have one doubt and they call it treason, as Les McCann once said. We as taxpayers spend tens of millions of dollars funding salmon restoration while this newest science shows that one of the answers to the decline in our stocks may be found right in front of our doorsteps, in the shape of net pens. It is obviously not just this one thing but death by a “thousand cuts”. Climate change, destruction of habitat through logging and farming, a history of overfishing sanctioned by the state up until the Boldt Decision,  and yes, disease.  The danger of these concentrated feed lots to our wild stocks is easy to see, and now we are getting more proof of them spreading disease. The fact that the managers of these feed lots need to put various chemicals into the waters to keep fish healthy is just one indicator. The vast amount of feed they pump Into the waters attract wild fish, who can then be exposed to any illness carried in the farmed fish. The ecosystems under the pens is destroyed for decades, if not permanently.

The science has shown over the decades that wild fish are more resistant to changes in their climate and surroundings than farmed fish. They have learned to evolve as the ice ages came and went, destroying their home streams. They are survivors. But can they survive our efforts to ‘improve’ engineered fish?

The people who profit from this industry continue to put forward the notion that “nothing is wrong”. This article is yet another clear warning that the dues will come due sooner than later. Our wild stocks continue to struggle to survive, as do the mammals like Orcas that rely on them. It is worth noting that since time immemorial we have been gifted with an enormous source of free protein in the shape of these wild animals. They have supported civilizations on this coast for centuries, who harvested sustainably, even though they never used that word. Many of the poorest of us have been fed in the past by simply putting a cheap boat in the water or a line in a river.  Now with stocks dwindling and costs skyrocketing far beyond the reach of most people who need the protein the most, we continue to buy into the notion that “all is well” as propagated by those who make a profit off the resource and will simply pack up and go somewhere else when they have exhausted it.

It is a sad commentary that the very people charged with protecting our waters, continue to stand by and do nothing, take no stand,  while the paid mouthpieces of the industry shout down our scientists. Like the poem by Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, where the two cry tears over the sad fate of the oysters as they proceed to eat every single one.

The study traces the origins of piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV, to Atlantic salmon farms in Norway, and found that the virus is now almost ubiquitous in salmon farms in B.C. The virus has been shown to sicken farmed fish.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/virus-spreads-from-bc-fish-farms-to-wild-chinook-salmon-new-study-finds/

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