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article imageVirus affecting farmed Atlantic salmon puts wild salmon at risk

By Karen Graham     May 8, 2018 in Science
Vancouver - A virus known to affect farmed Atlantic salmon may cause jaundice and anemia in wild Chinook salmon, according to research released today by the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI).
The study is part of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI) – a partnership of the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Genome BC, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In a press release, the Pacific Salmon Foundation says it is taking the unusual step of posting a scientific paper in advance of publication within a scientific journal.
The paper by Di Cicco et al. (2018) was accepted for publication in FACETS on April 23, 2018 and is expected to be published later this month, according to CTV News Canada.
A school of Chinook salmon.
A school of Chinook salmon.
Zureks (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The research paper shows the same strain of piscine orthoreovirus (PRV-1) that is known to cause Heart and Skeletal Muscular Inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon — discovered in B.C. salmon farms by the same SSHI research team in 2016 — is now being associated with a disease called jaundice/anemia in Chinook salmon.
What is interesting is that the PRV virus that causes HSMI in Atlantic salmon causes a different disease in Chinook salmon. In Chinooks, the disease causes red blood cells to break down and overwhelm the liver with toxic levels of hemoglobin, resulting in damage to both the liver and kidneys, while at the same time producing a yellow discoloration in the fish. Hence the name - jaundice/anemia.
Juvenile Pacific salmon. Environmental quality is crucial to their survival.
Juvenile Pacific salmon. Environmental quality is crucial to their survival.
Previously Only Shown to Impact Farmed Atlantic Salmon
Researchers looked at samples of farmed Pacific Chinook and Atlantic salmon and confirmed the presence of the highly-contagious piscine reovirus (PRV) in both species. “It’s the same strain of the virus,” lead author Kristi Miller, the head of salmon genetics for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told CTV News.
Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), a deadly viral disease that proved to be devastating to Norwegian salmon farmers in the 1990s was first found by federal scientists in farmed salmon in British Columbia several years ago. Piscine Reo-virus (PRV) is often found in conjunction with HSMI.
PRV is the causative agent in heart and skeletal muscle inflammation disease (HSMI) in Atlantic salmon. The DFO has been studying the relationship between the two strains of the virus since 2011 when PRV was first identified on examination of farmed Atlantic salmon from Norway that displayed signs of two similar heart diseases, HSMI and Cardiomyopathy Syndrome (CMS).
The abdomen of an Atlantic Salmon shows skin haemorrhages typical of a fish infected by Infectious S...
The abdomen of an Atlantic Salmon shows skin haemorrhages typical of a fish infected by Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv).
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Is the study is about activism or science?
We could go into all that has been going on lately, including Washington state closing its waters to open-net salmon farming, the escape of more than 263,000 invasive Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound in late August last year, but it all culminated with wild salmon advocates in B.C. saying the province should follow in Washington State's footsteps.
Then, on April 24, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand tabled her report in Parliament that suggested the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not adequately managing the risks associated with the growing salmon farming industry.
And all the while, there have been countless studies that document the spread of the virus, as well as another virus called the ISAV virus that was found in B.C. farmed salmon. So it looks like this study is going to turn into a political football.
SeaWestNews is reporting the salmon virus study is about activism and not science. The website claims the study is making assumptions to assert that PRV is responsible for heart issues and jaundice in wild salmon. They quote Dr. Ian Gardner, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Aquatic Epidemiology, who is also part of the SSHI.
The study makes broad sweeping statements not supported by evidence, hence I concur with it being described as a speculative report,” said Dr. Gardner. He also mentions that Kristi Miller was also involved in another study which was aimed to provide context for research papers, like the one released today.
“However, we have not been able to reconcile our data with what is being released today by Dr. Miller and others,” he said. “Sometimes when someone does not like the results of a particular study, they review the findings and this tends to see an introduction of bias,” he said.
It should be noted that regardless of which side you may be on, anyone who doesn't think a particular study goes with their way of thinking can certainly disagree. But with countless studies showing the prevalence of these deadly fish viruses, it does lead one to wonder why anyone would think the study is biased.
More about Piscine Reovirus, Farmed salmon, Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon, antisalmon farm
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