Trudeau Government Must Take Action on Deadly European Salmon Virus in British Columbia

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. - January 07, 2016) A recently released study, published in Virology Journal, reports evidence that the virus most feared by the international salmon farming industry is now present in our wild fish in British Columbia, Canada.  

Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), stated, “For years, we have warned the federal and provincial governments about our concerns with the imminent and devastating effect salmon farms have on wild salmon stocks. Today these fears are heightened. Wild salmon are integral to many First Nations’ cultures, well being and livelihood, and the protection of our wild salmon stocks is equally integral to the economic and environmental sustainability of the province and country as a whole.”

The ISA virus, a member of the influenza family, is appearing around the world where Atlantic salmon are farmed. When active, this virus can engulf the salmon farming industry, but here in BC we have the added risk of it spreading to wild salmon stocks that are already in decline. This virus has the potential for severe consequences to BC, the Northwestern United States and Alaska. ISAV caused billions of dollars in damage when accidentally introduced to Chile, because no action was taken when it was first detected.

We are extremely concerned that the study reports detection of a European strain of the ISA virus in the Fraser sockeye that spawn in Cultus Lake. These findings come as we face another year, where only an estimated two million sockeye have returned to the Fraser River, far short of the more than six million predicted in preseason forecasts.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of UBCIC, asserts, “With the newly released research, we have the opportunity to stop the ISA virus before it causes incalculable damage to wild salmon. UBCIC calls for the opening of fish farms to independent First Nations testing. Additionally, a test is needed that is specific to the new variant of European ISA virus and must be carried out on Atlantic salmon in the farms that are guests in our territories.”

The study represents a window of opportunity for the newly elected Trudeau government to take concrete steps to protect our wild salmon and rebuild the trust and respect that was lost under the Harper regime, which dismissed evidence-based scientific approaches and refused to enact the recommendations of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Given the critical importance of wild salmon the UBCIC remains fully committed to work with Minister Tootoo to help guide the new government’s commitments to reestablish transparent, science -based approaches and to renewing the relationship between the federal government and First Nations on a Nation-to-Nation basis, respecting our inherent Title and Rights.

Media inquiries:
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231