Day one of explosive testimony at the Cohen Inquiry into ISA virus
Four salmon disease experts were on the stand yesterday, December 15, 2011, at the Cohen Inquiry into the decline of the Fraser sockeye. Dr. Are Nylund of the University of Bergen is an expert in salmon viruses, including the ISA virus. Dr. Fred Kibenge runs one of only two World Organization for Animal Health labs for ISA virus. Dr. Kristina Miller is the head of the Genomics Lab at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station. Nelle Gagne is a researcher at the DFO National Reference Lab in Moncton a non-accredited lab.
On December 2, 2011, the Minister of Fisheries announced, “there has never been a confirmed case of ISA in British Columbia salmon” http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/statement-declarations/2011/20111202-eng.htm
However, on the stand today, Justice Cohen heard the DFO “Reference lab” is the only one that can’t seem to find ISA virus. The difference was in the type of software and assays used by Moncton. ISA virus is a type of fish flu, appearing worldwide wherever there are salmon farms, it has a tendency to mutating into highly virulent strains in the crowded.
But it got worse. Testing farm salmon in Clayoquot Sound for a jaundice yellow condition killing the farm fish for the past 7 years revealed both ISA virus and a new Norwegian virus that causes Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in salmon. Dr. Miller also reported higher levels of both ISA virus and HSMI in Fraser sockeye smolts in 2007, than 2008. The 2007, sockeye smolts were the ones that never came home in 2009. This raises the question how much these diseases contributed to the sockeye crash.
The scientists on the stand were unsure how long ISA virus may have been in BC. Dr. Miller revealed evidence it could have been here since the late 1980s, shortly after the first farm Atlantic salmon came to BC in 1985. What was most disturbing is that DFO never told the public and did not reveal the ISAv and HSMI findings to the Inquiry. Justice Cohen instructed DFO over a year ago to produce all evidence on the health of the Fraser sockeye. One hundred percent of the highly endangered Cultus Lake sockeye of the Fraser River tested positive for ISAv in 2002, 2003 and DFO never revealed this to the Inquiry and maintains the position ISA virus is not here.
“This is a dangerous and shameful breach of public trust,” says Inquiry participant Alexandra Morton. “DFO just lost all credibility, they are like addicts when it comes to salmon farms, they will do and say anything. They are going to destroy wild salmon as they did wild cod of the North Atlantic, no one has the right to be careless with viruses.”
At the hearings in August, the BC Salmon Farmers suggested they would develop a protocol with Miller to allow her to test Atlantic salmon for viruses. However, when asked today Miller said she refused an arrangement where the salmon farmers would have become managing partners in her research on Fraser sockeye while delaying access to Atlantic salmon until some future, undefined date.
While the public has been told all the wild salmon that tested positive for ISA virus were healthy, a researcher in Dr. Miller’s lab, Brad Davis, discovered that in fact ISA virus positive salmon exhibit symptoms of the flu – suggesting harm.
The Commission also heard evidence that when the provincial vet provided Dr. Miller with farm salmon samples that were so degraded and spoiled they were useless.
Today, December 16, 2011, Dr. Simon Jones of DFO takes the stand because he co-authored the paper that found ISAv in 100% of the Fraser sockeye, a paper DFO never provided to the Inquiry.
When is the B C Govt. going to take action?