PRV Virus Kills Pacific and Atlantic Salmon In Farms, Spreading Virus to Wild B.C. Fish Population


Latest studies show that there is a very contagious virus that impacts Atlantic salmon. Not only it started harming the Pacific salmon, but now it’s a serious threat to the wild salmon population in British Columbia. The wild salmon population is already declining. Now it’s at risk of contracting the virus from ocean pens to their migration routes.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome BC teamed up to study samples of farmed Pacific Chinook and Atlantic salmon. They discovered that both species had a very contagious piscine reovirus (PRV). The researchers will soon publish their findings in the journal FACETS.

Deadly Virus Affects Wild Salmon Population

The lead author of the study is Kristi Miller, who is also the head of salmon genetics for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, saying that they found the same strain of virus in both species.

The Chinook salmon developed jaundice anemia, which made the fish look yellow and its organs to fail. In the Atlantic salmon, the virus caused inflammation of heart and skeletal muscle (HSMI).

In the recent years, the PRV strain has been related to disease outbreaks in Pacific salmon in Canada, Chile, Japan, and Norway.

Miller believes that wild fish population is at great risk:

“Escaped farmed salmon, which are most often infected with PRV, could also be a transmission vector for freshwater infections in wild fish if they enter rivers.”

The salmon farming industry contributes to the decline of wild salmon population, but processing plants are also creating problems.

Waters Infected With the Virus

In November 2017, CTV News got a footage showing a farmed-salmon processing plant discharging bloody sewage. Samples of the water revealed the presence of the deadly virus.

Julie Gelfand is the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. She reported in Parliament on 24 April that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t manage the risks of the salmon farming industry which continues to grow:

“We found that the Department was not monitoring wild fish health.”

Jay Ritchlin, the director general of David Suzuki Foundation, is also worried about the wild salmon population:

“Given the numerous challenges that wild salmon face, every exposure to increased disease risk is a problem, and one we should try to mitigate. If these diseases get into the wild population we will likely never see those fish again.”


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