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

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

BC Parks accepting application student ranger hiring program for its second year

48 students will get to have a summer job in the outdoors including in Goldstream Park

Whitecaps favourite switches to the Island

Marcel de Jong worked to end Whitecaps contract, joining Pacific FC on the ground floor

Snow not melting fast enough for some Greater Victoria residents

Resident unhappy with lack of snow removal on Mount Doug trails

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Police dog tracks suspect through wintry Vancouver Island backcountry

Assault suspect arrested after two-hour track by Nanaimo RCMP police dog Jager

Trudeau takes personal hit amid SNC-Lavalin controversy: poll

Overall, 41 per cent of respondents believed the prime minister had done something wrong in the affair

B.C. photographer captures otters on ice

A Langley photographer was at the right place at the right time on the Fraser River

Unplowed Roads parody song destined to be a classic

Move over Weird Al, Island elementary students on the same level

Do you live with your partner? More and more Canadians don’t

Statistics Canada shows fewer couples live together than did a decade ago

B.C. child killer denied mandatory outings from psychiatric hospital

The B.C. Review Board decision kept things status quo for Allan Schoenborn

Vancouver Island Pride Weekend coming to Mt. Washington

VIP events will be held Feb. 28 to March 3

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Most Read