Nova Scotia salmon farm quarantined after suspected virus

February 18th, 2012
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
By: Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

HALIFAX - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is investigating after seafood company Cooke Aquaculture reported a possible virus outbreak at one of its fish farms in Nova Scotia.

The New Brunswick-based company said Friday it killed salmon in two cages after a suspected outbreak of the infectious salmon anemia virus at one of its farms, though it did not say where it occurred.

The private company did not return a message seeking comment, but instead issued a statement saying it killed the fish after routine tests of its stocks on Feb. 10. It referred questions to the federal and provincial governments.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it was investigating the suspected outbreak, but it too declined to say which fish farm is involved.

Con Kiley, director of the agency's aquatic animal health program, said that information can't be made public because of privacy concerns.

"We do not confirm the exact location or the owners of facilities," said Kiley, though he added the company killed thousands of fish as a pre-emptive measure and is under quarantine.

He said the virus is not a human health or food risk, but the agency's website says it can kill up to 90 per cent of infected fish, depending on its strain.

Roland Cusack, an aquatic animal veterinarian with Nova Scotia's Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, also declined to say where the suspected outbreak took place. He said it would be up to the federal government to make that information publicly available.

"We are not at liberty to disclose the location," Cusack said.

He said the province reported the suspected outbreak to federal authorities last week after Cooke Aquaculture started finding dead fish.

"In this case, there was some elevation in mortality and fish were submitted to our lab," said Cusack.

Todd Dupuis, an executive director with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said he wasn't surprised when he heard about the suspected outbreak because the virus has been in Canada before.

Dupuis said his group's main concern is the potential fallout on wild salmon stocks.

"The stocks are very depressed already in that region in the Bay of Fundy and southern coast of Nova Scotia," he said.

"They've got to make sure it doesn't get passed to what's left of the wild stocks."

There are 13 salmon farming operations in Nova Scotia. Cooke Aquaculture operates nine of them, including two in Digby County, and four in the Shelburne Harbour and McNutts Island areas, according to its website.

Kiley said tests would be conducted at a federal lab in Moncton, N.B., to confirm whether the virus is present. Results are expected in a few weeks.

Opponents of the aquaculture industry have expressed concerns that the presence of salmon anemia could link wild salmon decline with fish farms. A European strain of the virus devastated fish farms in Chile, but it's not clear whether the virus affects wild salmon.

The source of the disease remains unknown. Critics of salmon farms blame the industry, but the industry vigorously contests the allegations.
If you have any comments on Atlantic salmon issues and coverage, or would like further information, contact:

Sue Scott, V.P. Communications
E-mail: [email protected]