A campaign spearheaded by Tofino based environmental organization Clayoquot Action that resulted in 5,000 postcards being sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has caught the attention of NDP Fisheries and Oceans critic Fin Donnelly.
The postcards state “Your Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is breaking the law by not testing BC farmed salmon for piscine reovirus (PRV) before allowing them to be transferred into open-net pens along wild salmon migration routes.”
Donnelly spoke in the House of Commons on Sept. 28 asking what the government planned to do ensure diseased fish aren’t being transferred into the ocean.
“Foreign diseased fish are in Pacific waters threatening wild salmon. Industry knows it, the courts recognized it, and yet this government ignores it,” Donnelly said.
“More than 5,000 Canadians wrote the Prime Minister demanding his government take action. The government’s response? Silence. When will the government follow its own rules and regulations and when will the Liberals stop the transfer of dangerous, infected salmon into BC waters?”
Parliamentary secretary Terry Beech responded by suggesting Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans could look into stronger regulations.
“While Fisheries and Oceans’ B.C. Agriculture regulations are amongst the most rigorous in the world, all options to improve are on the table,” Beech said.
Clayoquot Action’s co-founder Dan Lewis told the Westerly News he was delighted to see Donnelly reference Clayoquot Action’s campaign in the House.
“That, to me, is how democracy is supposed to work: when members of parliament represent the people,” he said.
“Our voice was heard directly in the parliament, so I’m stoked.”
He said the postcards were distributed throughout Tofino over the summer.
“We’re engaging locals who want to try to help and we’re giving them something easy to do so they can be the agents of change,” he said.
“The fact that 5,000 people would put their name on this card, shows that they care. That takes some effort. It’s not as much effort as a handwritten letter, but it obviously has an impact.”
He pointed to a recent study conducted in Norway, that links the piscine rheovirus to Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation Disease, as a key reason for Clayoquot Action’s concerns.
“Fish farms are not required to test for it. There’s a list of diseases that they have to test for, PRV is not on that list,” Lewis said adding Heart and Skeletal Muscal Inflamation could be crippling to wild fish.
“In the wild, those fish cannot escape predators,” he said. “This is why we’re having a hard time finding HSMI in the wild, those fish don’t survive.”
He suggested diseases can spread rapidly from farmed fish to wild ones.
In an emailed response to the Westerly News, Cermaq stated its salmon are tested before being transferred from hatcheries to the ocean.
“All Cermaq Canada hatchery fish are screened for pathogens, viruses, bacteria and parasites.
This includes PRV. To date, no signs of PRV have been found at our hatcheries,” the statement read.
“All our fish are vaccinated against common ocean diseases before being entered into our ocean sites.”
The company’s statement suggests piscine rheovirus was first discovered in samples of Atlantic salmon in Norway in 2010.
“Since then, PRV has been detected in wild salmonid and non-salmonid fish in the oceans of the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Chile, the USA, and Canada,” it read. “PRV is endemic in the ocean. Thousands of wild and farmed salmon in the Pacific Ocean have tested positive in Alaska, BC and Washington for PRV…Testing archived samples of wild salmon has shown that PRV has been present in Pacific fish since at least 1987, and possibly as early as 1977.”