Nell Halse, a communications official with Cooke Aquaculture, said that the company is taking the outbreak of an Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) at one of its Nova Scotia farms very seriously.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) began taking samples at the farm after Cooke Aqua reported a possible outbreak of ISA at the farm on February 9. The agency placed quarantine on the facility on February 10, and samples were immediately sent to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada laboratory in Moncton, New Brunswick. The lab conducted a series of internationally recognized tests for infectious salmon anaemia, which was confirmed by the lab on March 7.
Halse said, “We are working with the CFIA and the province of Nova Scotia on the continued management of this fish farm. CFIA continues to do their testing and sampling of the remaining fish on the farm which has been quarantined due the ISA positive status of the site.
“The quarantine basically means that the CFIA people have imposed heightened bio-security measures which we would have implemented anyway.”
A CFIA news release dated March 7 reads, in part: A quarantine remains on the facility to control movements of people, vessels, equipment and fish onto or off of the site. As a precautionary disease control measure, the owner of the facility chose to euthanize two pens containing affected salmon when the disease was first suspected. The CFIA will now order a third cage of salmon to be humanely destroyed and disposed of, with compensation paid to the owner.
The quarantine will remain in place until all fish have been removed from the facility; all pens, cages, and equipment have been cleaned and disinfected, and the CFIA approves all cleaning and disinfecting activities and authorizes the removal of the quarantine.
Hales said that the company has strict biosecurity measures on all its farms, and the company is completing a thorough investigation for all fish and equipment movements over the lifetime of this particular crop of fish.
She said that Cooke Aqua is very concerned about this problem at the Nova Scotia farm.
“Fish health remains a high priority for us on all our farms,” Halse said.” We have already worked proactively to prevent the spread of the ISA to other cages. The voluntary effort to cull two cages in the province after the ISA was suspected was a proactive and positive move in an effort to manage this virus and keep it from spreading.
“ An average salmon farm has approximately 20 cages depending on the size, so losing three cages, while unfortunate, is not the end of the farm. This still represents only a small per centage of our Nova Scotia production.”
If more cases of salmon anaemia are discovered, the agency said more fish could be destroyed.
Virus does not affect human health
The CFIA said that the ISA virus does not affect human health or food safety. According to Cooke Aqua, veterinarians and scientists say that ISA poses no known threat to other fish species such as lobster, herring or cod. Although herring and cod can carry the virus, there is no adverse affect. Again, ISA is not a human health issue.
How might this affect Cooke’s NL operations?
Halse said, “We are testing all of our farms for ISA and the provincial veterinarians are also conducting tests on a regular basis. While we have to be prepared for the potential of ISA outbreaks in Newfoundland as well as everywhere else that we farm, we do have the advantage of having years of experience and the support of many local experts such as the Atlantic Veterinary College, private labs and government labs.”
Evidence of ISA has existed in the wild fishery on the East Coast for over 100 years. Since 1996 when ISA was first identified on New Brunswick salmon farms, farmers have worked with scientists, veterinarians and government to manage and prevent out breaks and to stop the virus from spreading.
The New Brunswick salmon farming industry responded to the threat of ISA by developing a bay management system and strict biosecurity protocols for all farmers, processing and fish transportation operations as well as the designation of wharves for specific activities and guidelines for vessel traffic. Cooke is working intensely to implement this approach throughout its operations.