Deadly salmon disease diagnosed in British Columbia
The study, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, is the first to find heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, or HSMI, in salmon at B.C. fish farms. The disease can wipe out up to 20 per cent of a farmed population.
Researchers also showed a correlation between HSMI and piscine reo-virus, suggesting the two might be linked.
Emiliano Di Cicco, co-author of the study, said the findings could have negative consequences for B.C.’s salmon farming industry, which had an estimated net value after marketing costs of $476 million in 2013.
“(HSMI) is the No. 3 cause of mortality and economic loss in the salmon-farming industry,” Di Cicco said. “But the other issue we need to care about is the same virus (PRV) could infect Pacific salmon in B.C.”
For some scientists, the study provides the missing link showing that farmed salmon pose a threat to wild stocks.
PRV is highly contagious, and some scientists have argued it can spread from Atlantic salmon in open-net pen farms to wild salmon that swim past.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the virus affects up to 80 per cent of farmed salmon in B.C.
Pacific wild salmon have tested positive for the virus, but its prevalence in that population is unknown. ■