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

  • Feb. 5, 2019 11:30 a.m.

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.

Just Posted

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

Stop work order at Sooke salmon hatchery devastates volunteers

CRD steps in as some volunteers give up their efforts

Oak Bay researcher’s Canadian English dictionary goes to print

How an unknown American hobbyist sparked a Canadian dictionary

Jesse Roper learns to create fire in the wild, in Sacred Knowledge web series

Ragnarock Studios production shares primitive skills with Islanders

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

SOOKE HISTORY: Pemberton Pool namesake remains a mystery

Historian believes it was possibly named after surveyor Joseph Despard Pemberton

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Most Read