In Vancouver Island's magnificent Clayoquot Sound 14 of 15 of the DFO regulated fish farms have tested positive for a highly contagious virus.
The report by Clayoquot Action, a Tofino-based conservation society, says feces, flesh and scale samples from 14 out of 15 farms tested positive for the piscine orthoreovirus, a disease that gained notoriety after a video of bloody discharge from packing plants in Tofino and Campbell River went viral in December 2017.
Laboratory testing by the B.C. government showed the underwater effluent was contaminated with piscine orthoreovirus, a disease found in 80 per cent of farmed Atlantic salmon that is linked to a host of fish health problems, including heart and skeletal muscle inflammation and haemorrhages in internal organs.
Clayoquot Action campaigns director Bonny Glambeck said it’s particularly concerning to find piscine orthoreovirus on Chinook salmon farms located along wild salmon migratory routes in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Four of the active farms the group tested are owned by Creative Salmon, the only company raising Chinook on a large scale in open net pen farms in B.C. Most B.C. open net pen operations — including 11 other active farms tested for the study, which are owned by Cermaq, a Mitsubishi subsidiary headquartered in Norway — produce Atlantic salmon, a species not native to the Pacific Coast.
“Wild Chinook salmon in Clayoquot Sound are on the brink of extinction,” Glambeck told The Narwhal.The DFO dismisses the problem, saying it's a BC strain of the virus that has a minimal risk of spreading disease. The tests prove DFO is, to give them the benefit of the doubt, wrong.
“They are essentially denying the existence of this Norwegian variant in British Columbia waters … It’s just shocking to me that they continue to deny that it is damaging and dangerous to wild salmon, pretending that it’s not happening.”
Terry Dorward, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation councillor, said the federal government is spreading “disinformation” about the piscine orthoreovirus variant found on salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound, whose biodiverse rainforest islands support many species dependent on wild salmon.
“This is similar to what my people — Indigenous people — experienced when we were given smallpox blankets,” Dorward told The Narwhal. “We were nearly wiped out. And I believe the same thing is happening to our wild salmon.
In 2018, the state of Washington announced that open net pen fish farms would be phased out by 2025. The state also stopped hundreds of thousands of salmon infected with an Icelandic strain of piscine orthoreovirus from being transferred to the farms, saying wild salmon could be at risk.