Federal court rules farmed salmon must be tested for deadly virus in B.C.

PRV causes fatal heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in Atlantic salmon

The Federal Court has struck down a Fisheries and Oceans Canada policy regarding a lethal virus that has the potential to infect wild chinook salmon in British Columbia waters.

Piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV, is highly contagious and often found in fish farms off the B.C. coast, many of which are positioned along wild salmon migration routes.

In her ruling issued Monday, Justice Cecily Strickland says the federal policy unlawfully allows young farmed Atlantic salmon to be transferred into open net pens without testing for the virus.

She has given the department four months to begin testing for the disease.

PRV causes fatal heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in Atlantic salmon but a 2018 study led by a Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist found it is linked to an equally deadly type of anemia in at least one species of wild B.C. salmon.

Marine biologist Alexandra Morton is celebrating the victory after working with the Namgis First Nation and Ecojustice to convince the Fisheries Department to test farmed salmon before they are put in open net pens.

READ MORE: B.C. chefs call for end to open-net fish farms as province reviews renewals

WATCH: Northern fur seal pup rescued by fish farm staff near Hardwicke Island

She says the problem is that PRV screening could dramatically reduce profits in the aquaculture industry.

“If the minister of fisheries follows the law of Canada and screens these fish and does not allow the infected ones to go into the water, I don’t think the fish farm industry has enough fish to keep farming in these waters, and I think that is the crux of the problem,” Morton says.

Morton and the Namgis filed a lawsuit last year against the policy.

Strickland’s judgement, released Monday, says the federal policy of not testing for the virus “perpetuates a state of wilful blindness on the part of the minister with respect to the extend of PRV infection in hatcheries and fish farms.”

An emailed statement from Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson says the court ruling is being reviewed.

“Our government understands that a strong, science-based approach to regulating the aquaculture industry is essential and that is why we have and will continue to conduct extensive research which informs our policies and regulations,” Wilkinson says in the statement. (The Canadian Press, CFAX)

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

UPDATED: Some states of local emergency suspended by ministerial order

Suspension applies to regional districts but not First Nations

A letter from Bella Coola doctors on COVID-19: ‘All our lives depend on your actions now’

“None of us are invincible; we can all get it and spread it without even knowing.”

COVID-19: Bella Coola RCMP close detachment front door access

The public is being asked to call 250 799 5363 for assistance

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. announces $3M for food banks to increase capacity during COVID-19

It is not clear how much of the money will flow towards Greater Victoria food banks

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

World COVID-19 update: U.S. expects 100,000 deaths; Oregon declares disaster

Comprehensive update of world news for Sunday, March 19.

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

Most Read