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More Shelburne salmon kills ordered by feds

26apr2012 (revised 27apr2012) - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency told SCT Wednesday that they have ordered the destruction of the remaining salmon at the Kelly Cove/Cooke Aquaculture site near McNutt's Island at the mouth of Shelburne Harbour, due to the spread of the highly infectious ISA virus, which previously resulted in the destruction of fish from three of the 20-plus cages at the site.

The site was thought to contain upwards of 700,000 fish, valued at more than $15 million wholesale. Cooke Aquaculture has said that they will be compensated by CFIA for the fish destroyed as a result of this order, but said that details were still to be worked out.

CFIA has repeatedly said that ISA is not harmful to humans and that, if certain bio-security measures are followed, ISA-tainted fish may be sold on the consumer market.  A Cooke senior executive told CBC Friday that, if the Shelburne fish had been beyond the 50% grow-out size, they well have been processed and sold on the consumer market. CFIA has not yet responded to a query from SCT about whether proper bio-security standards are in place for processing diseased fish from the Cooke farms in Shelburne.

When asked by reporters about the origin of the ISA infection in Shelburne, the Cooke executive said that industry science showed that ISA is present in wild salmon and that ISA infections "come from the wild". She said that the quarantines and fish slaughters are designed in part to avoid having ISA transmitted back to wild fish. This explanation of ISA origin is far different that the commonly held explanations by the scientific community and most of the salmon industry. The cause of the devastating outbreak of ISA in Chile in 2009 was determined to be infected salmon eggs from Norway, which were introdcued to the farms in 2005.

A Cooke Aquaculture employee told Shelburne officials last month that they thought the Shelburne Harbour infection came from "bad smolts from New Brunswick."

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau told the Canadian Press that he is confident the virus hasn't spread beyond Shelburne Harbour.

"This is one area that has been quarantined and has been heavily monitored," Belliveau said, adding that he didn't believe the disease would deal a blow to the province's salmon farming industry.

"I see this as part of reality," he said.  Previously, Belliveau said that ISA outbreaks and massive fish kills are "just a normal day" in salmon farming.

One source told SCT that the entirety of Shelburne Harbour is now under quarantine and that no new sites will be approved there or in nearby Jordan Bay for one year. The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has not confirmed this information. A second source from the the aquaculture industry told SCT that it was "common knowledge" in the industry that there had been a previous - but unreported - ISA outbreak in Shelburne Harbour and that he thought that the entire harbour may contain ISA infection.

Dr. Roland Cusack, the provincial aquatic health veterinarian for the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture, previously asserted that ISA disease was "no great threat to the salmon and that it generally progressed slowly and was not very destructive." In Chile in 2007 a major outbreak resulted in the forced slaughter of millions of fish and the loss of 70% of the jobs in the massive aquaculture infrastructure, almost fatally crippling the industry. ISA was originally detected in Norway in 1984 and by 1988 was widespread and categorized as a "notifiable disease".

A request to the Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture for an interview with a staff person familiar with the ISA outbreak in Shelburne received this email: "The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture continues to work with and advise the CFIA, the company, aquaculture industry, Atlantic Provinces and the public on the management of ISA."

ISA Outbreaks have occurred in New Brunswick (1996), Scotland (1998, 2008), British Columbia (2011). The New Brunswick outbreak resulted in $75.5 million compensation to the aquaculture industry.