Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salmon Virus

Alaska fisheries officials are keeping a close watch on Canadian efforts to track samples from sockeye salmon that showed exposure to infectious salmon anemia virus, or ISA. The concern stems from Canadian reports that two of 38 Pacific salmon smolt caught in the waters of British Columbia tested positive for the virus, which is lethal to farmed Atlantic salmon, but whose effect on wild Pacific salmon is unknown. The virus is not known to be harmful to humans.

Jeff Regnart, director of commercial fisheries for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said Nov. 1 that fisheries scientist Ted Meyers, a pathologist, is in daily contact with his Canadian counterparts on the matter, as they await the results of further testing. “Once this second round of tests is completed, we will take appropriate action” Regnart said. State Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell said earlier that the agency will take all necessary measures to protect Alaska stocks.

Meyers cautioned that while state fisheries officials are concerned, they do not want to overreact before receiving more definitive information from Canadian authorities.

The cautionary approach was not winning support, however, from industry folks like Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association in Juneau.

Kelley said in an editorial published in the Vancouver Sun newspaper that she has no desire to strike fear into the hearts of the public or the fishermen that she represents.

“However, we need transparency and assurance that appropriate steps are underway,” she wrote. “If the Canadian government has information to quell our concerns, we have not yet heard it. If they have an effective plan of action, we have not yet seen it. How do fisheries professionals in Canada and along the West Coast intend to safeguard wild fish and fishing communities from the introduction of foreign disease strains now, and into the future? We’re listening.”

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