Salmon Steward

Fall/Winter 2020

Salmon Steward is the official publication of the Pacific Salmon Foundation in British Columbia, Canada

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salmon Steward magazine 7 RYAN MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY " THERE IS SIMPLY TOO MUCH AT STAKE TO CARRY ON AS WE HAVE TO DATE. " position in 2018. Science has been PSF's primary focus, namely to better understand the potential health impacts of farmed salmon on Pacific salmon. LISTENING TO THE SCIENCE In 2013, responding to the Cohen Commission, PSF launched the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI), led by Dr. Brian Riddell (PSF) and Dr. Kristi Miller (DFO) in partnership with Genome BC. This project uses genomics to better understand pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites) present in wild, hatchery and farmed salmon, and their potential impacts on salmon mortality. There was a strong belief within the scientific community that infectious disease agents could contribute significantly to this mortality, but not enough was known about which disease agents might be impacting wild Pacific salmon or about the potential interaction between wild salmon and farmed salmon. The SSHI project has assessed 50 pathogens observed in B.C. salmon, and in the course of our research has discovered 15 previously uncharacterized viruses. One pathogen, piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), has been of particular public concern, as it is the causative agent of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) – a disease among the most impactful to salmon farms in Norway. In B.C., there has been substantial controversy surrounding PRV and its ability to cause disease, and there has been ongoing debate about the impact and origin of PRV in B.C. salmon. The SSHI team has been instrumental in demonstrating that PRV is present in our wild salmon populations. Furthermore, one SSHI study reported that PRV can cause disease in Pacific salmon, and this finding is consistent with the worldwide body of science that indicates similar findings. Our conclusion is that PRV is here, and it has the potential to cause disease in wild salmon. Even if the disease does not result in direct mortality, its effects can reduce their ability to survive in the wild. Additionally, the science is increasingly pointing to PRV originating in the Atlantic, followed by spread in the east Pacific during recent decades. It is notable that the earliest confirmed PRV detection comes from a Chinook salmon sampled in 1992, after the establishment of Atlantic-salmon farming in B.C. To learn more on PRV and the research conducted by the SSHI, visit: salmon-health-initiative. WHAT IS THE TRUE COST? Fish in open net-pens in the ocean may transmit pathogens (including sea lice) to wild Pacific salmon. This undeniable interaction poses an unnecessary and poorly documented risk to Pacific salmon. The value of salmon aquaculture in B.C. cannot be viewed in isolation of values associated with wild Pacific salmon – be they cultural, ecological or economic. FOR THE FUTURE Notwithstanding policy changes provincially and federally, which both levels of government deserve credit for, there unfortunately remains uncertainty as to whether a move from ONP aquaculture will transpire and debate persists about the science associated with impacts of ONP on Pacific salmon. PSF remains watchful and concerned and we were alarmed to hear recent reports of high sea lice loads on Pacific salmon in the Discovery Islands. PSF has recently written to both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan laying out our concerns. On September 28, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced that it will consult with First Nations in the Discovery Islands to inform whether or not to renew aquaculture licences set to expire in December. This followed DFO's completion of nine peer-reviewed, scientific risk assessments to determine the impact of interactions between wild Pacific salmon and pathogens from salmon farms, which was called for by the Cohen Commission in 2012. PSF researchers participated in several of these review processes. PSF is pleased to see the collaborative approach signalled by DFO to consult with First Nations in the Discovery Islands about the future of open net-pen aquaculture in this critical migratory path for Fraser River Sockeye and other salmon species like Chinook. However, PSF does not agree with the DFO finding of "minimal harm" to Fraser River Sockeye, and notes that the DFO risk assessment did not include assessment of risk arising from sea lice. We also believe that such major decisions should not be limited to only Sockeye and that risk assessment should include all B.C. salmon and their ecosystem. n PSF continues to support the transition of open net-pen salmon aquaculture to closed-containment systems, as recently recommended by our federal government, and that this transition occurs as soon as possible. There is simply too much at stake to carry on as we have to date.

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