New research released by the federal government says there are minimal risks of farmed Atlantic salmon from British Columbia’s Discovery Islands transferring a deadly viral disease to wild sockeye making their way to the Fraser River.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Wednesday the findings are the first in a series of investigations to assess the risk of pathogen transfer associated with aquaculture activities to wild fish in the islands, which are near Campbell River on Vancouver Island.
The department said management practices on fish health at the B.C. farms, including a vaccine that is 95 per cent effective, minimizes the risk.
“This full detailed risk assessment is the first robust analysis that has ever been completed for examining population level effects of fish pathogen transfer from farmed fish to wild fish,” said Jay Parsons, the department’s director of aquaculture.
The research was released as part of a science advisory report on Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus, a disease that affects fish and trout raised in fresh and salt water.
Parsons said the department will conduct risk assessments on nine other diseases known to impact farmed salmon.
The risk assessments are part of the work it is doing to address recommendations in an October 2012 commission of inquiry report into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.
Justice Bruce Cohen made recommendations for improving the future sustainability of the fishery including placing a freeze on net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands until September 2020.
Cohen also said the Fisheries Department should prohibit farms in the area completely if it concludes the operations pose more than a minimal risk to Fraser River sockeye.
The B.C. government announced Wednesday it will review fish processing plants to ensure waste materials from the operations do not affect wild salmon stocks.
Jeremy Dunn of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association said the industry welcomes both government reviews and will co-operate fully.
The area around the Broughton Archipelago off northern Vancouver Island has been the site of ongoing protests at Atlantic salmon farms this year by Indigenous people who say they fear the loss of wild salmon populations.