BABY ORCA DEATH COULD BE LINKED TO SALMON FARM VIRUS
A new study has identified that Piscine Reovirus, a Norwegian virus introduced in BC by salmon farms is reported to cause Chinook salmon cells to explode and could be a missing link to explain why resident whales are starving to extinction.
June 2th, 2018 [Vancouver, BC] – On June 23rd an orca born into the critically endangered Southern Resident orca population died within hours of birth. Despite the decline of Orcas due to the loss of Chinook salmon, their primary food source, the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Jonathan Wilkinson, refuses to screen farmed salmon for a virus that causes Chinook salmon blood cells to rupture “en masse”.
Research published in 2017 in the prestigious scientific journal, PloS One, reports that saving the southern resident orca from extinction may depend on restoring Chinook salmon populations in the Fraser River.
Despite this, 80% of the farmed salmon sighted in pens along the Fraser River salmon migration route along eastern Vancouver Island are infected with piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), a virus recently reported by DFO to affect Chinook salmon. The paper published in the journal FACETS2 earlier this year describes how PRV invades the blood cells of Chinook salmon, replicates rapidly in the cells until the cells burst causing organ failure, severe jaundice and release of the virus into marine habitats.
For the third consecutive year, Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, the Martin Sheen is conducting audits into the damaging effects open-net salmon farms have in British Columbian waters.
Independent Biologist Alexandra Morton won a lawsuit against the Ministry of Fisheries in 2015 prohibiting the Minister of Fisheries from allowing farmed salmon to be transferred into marine pens without screening for PRV.
Canadian Fisheries Regulations prohibit the transfer of fish infected with a disease into Canadian waters. Because the majority of BC farmed salmon is infected, the salmon farming industry admits it would be severely impacted if this law was applied to their operations.
For reasons not fully understood, the Minister of Fisheries refuses to acknowledge this 2016 Federal court ruling and continues to refuse to screen for PRV. As a result, most farm salmon sold in markets is infected with PRV as per research also published in PloS One, on December 3rd 2017.
“I am terribly saddened by the loss of this young whale and the suffering her mother is enduring,” says Alexandra Morton. “Here in Canada we are guilty of allowing our government to ignore the very laws that would prevent this. The Trudeau government is protecting millions of introduced Atlantic salmon infected with a virus that causes wild Chinook salmon cells to explode as whales go extinct for lack of Chinook salmon. Canada is giving up so much for the benefit and profit of three salmon farming companies that dominate the BC salmon farming industry.”
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Notes to Media:
For more information and to interview Alexandra Morton, please call: 250-974-7086
A world-renowned biologist, Alexandra Morton began her carrier studying orcas in the Broughton Archipelago. After an influx of fish farms to the area, Morton noticed resident orcas had abandoned the area, toxic algae blooms had increased, and sea lice (salmon parasites) had increased drastically on wild juvenile salmon. Concerned about the impact of fish farms on local ecosystems, Morton shifted her research towards wild salmon health, having focused much of her recent studies on Piscine Reovirus (PRV).
ABOUT THE RESEARCH VESSEL MARTIN SHEEN
The R/V Martin Sheen is Sea Shepherd’s scientific research vessel. Its purpose is to collaborate with marine scientists, laboratories, universities and government agencies to study a range of marine species and understand how to better protect them. The vessel has collaborated on several projects, including the effects that micro plastics have on resident fin whales in the Sea of Cortez, toxicology on cetaceans and behavior of rare beaked whales on the remote Guadalupe Island in Mexico.
ABOUT OPERATION VIRUS HUNTER
Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, Martin Sheen returns to the west coast of Canada for a third year as part of Operation Virus Hunter III — to study the impact that farmed salmon has on wild salmon populations in British Columbia. Working in collaboration with biologist Alexandra Morton, other scientists, and indigenous peoples along the coast, Operation Virus Hunter puts a spotlight on a secretive industry with devastating impact. www.seashepherd.org