Another day another virus scare

Another day, another virus scare.

Apparently Alexandra Morton is now claiming the farmed fish she bought at T&T Supermarkets shows evidence of some new virus.

How come it only takes four women with shopping carts to find it, she crows on her blog.

We answer with this: maybe only she is finding these things because they are in her imagination. She is wrong, and practicing bad science, and not really finding anything, just like Bigfoot ‘experts’ and UFO hunters.

But like those cranks, she sure knows how to get the media’s attention.

Strangely enough we cannot find the lab report for this. Ms Morton?

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27 thoughts on “Another day another virus scare”

  1. First of all I’d like to say that this thread is some of the best debate I’ve seen yet in 20 yrs of this ongoing fiasco. Thanks to Rune Jensen for participating and to Salmonscience for hosting
    In the interest of contunuing this thread i would like to respond to Rune’s most recent post by saying

    Science has been at the heart of aquaculture throughout its development in Canada, which brings us closer to the crux of this debate. Ms Morton represents a small group of scientists that are actively challenging a much larger(yet quieter) group of scientists. This is evident by having a quick look at the library posted here at this blog.

    The much larger group of scientists includes but is not limited to employees and contractors with the provincial and federal (DFO+MAFF)governments and include the people responsible for doing the disease testing and science related to aquaculture and fisheries currently in BC.
    In Canada we have the Candaian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) which operates somewhat like the American FDA in that part of what they do is handle disease issues nationally in co-operation with market forces.In short Canada and British columbia are doing a fine job with disease and science matters in realation to salmon aquaculture and all other areas for that matter.I know this is highly disputed amongst conspiracy theorists but call me what you may; I have faith in our Canadian institutions and have lived in enough other countries to be qualified making that opinion.

    The smaller group of scientists would have you believe that all of these valued Canadian institutions are in collusion with industry thus rendering all research performed or financed by government institutions to be tainted and biased .

    Their strategy is to bypass all the(perceived) tainted institutions in the belief that only Ms. Morton can do the science correctly and it is her mission to not only bypass the great institutions of this nation but to actively slander and libel in the process. All in the name of science.

    In conclusion I request that Rune read the results now posted on this site from the lab that tested the fish for Ms. Morton and give her opinion if those results warrant any further action on behalf of the salmon aquaculture industry in Canada.Should she still demand more testing I propose that if SalmonCamera or anyone else for that matter feels strongly enough about these issues to pay for the testing and comply with CFIA and other relevant protocols they can test away. There is nothing to hide here It is the process between taking the sample and hitting the press that seems to fuel the debate.

    sincerely

    Bob Milne

    Victoria BC

  2. If the majority of these fish from Superstore and the T&T Market had a deadly virus then how would they have survived to achieve market size? HSMI tends to affect younger fish – not market sized fish that were tested. Did anyone ask Ms Morton this?

    Rune Jensen: “This is a bit thin, since Alexandra Morton has not found any of these patogens. She has done the sampling, but the testing has been done by at least two labs that are world leading in their field.”

    Proper sampling is almost half the equation, Rune. There has to be a clear chain of custody with proper sampling methodology followed. Getting fish from a store by shopping doesn’t equate to being really reliable. Garbage in equals garbage out. This was clearly evident with the Sockeye Smolts from Rivers Inlet back in October last year. The samples were poorly degraded – primarily because they were not preserved properly. Proper sampling and preservation is key to getting defensible results in the end. Even the person who put out the fish sampling guide for activists last year did not have a clue about what she was doing. I counter that if Morton wants her science to be more acceptable then she has to do more on her end. So far, she has been fairly reckless in her methods.

    1. Fair enough. Nobody disagree that the samplingprocess is important. This goes without saying. But Ms.Morton has to sample wathever material available to her, since sampling from the best source scientificly speaking, is unavailable to her.
      What do you suggest then? How would you find the material for sampling, if the fishfarmers don’t want anyone to sample from their netpens? And ask your self one key question; even if the sampling methods and material was not as good as we would want it to be, WHERE does the viruses detected come from??? It has to have some source.
      If ISA never has been seen before in pacific waters, and suddenly it is, would it be good scientific practise to ignore the possibility that it is there.
      Sitting here in Norway, with all the knowledge available to us about these viruses, it seems rather stupid that the fishfarmers instead of opening their facilities for scientists to do proper testing with perfect protocols, wants to cloack any possibility for their fish to be carrying viruses with potential to desimate their own earnings.
      Belive us, we have seen fishfarms loosing 0 % of their stock infected with viruses, while the fishfarm just a few miles downstream has lost up to 80% of the same virus. Why might be dependant on a number of different variables not yet fully understood.
      Why do BC fishfarmers want to put their own buisness at risk?

      1. You are right, it makes no sense for fish farmers to put their own business at risk. That’s why they have been regularly providing fish to the provincial and now federal governments for testing for nearly a decade. This testing has been done using good quality samples and standard tests and has never found evidence of ISA.

        Don’t you think it’s a bit silly to think that fish farmers would want to hide any evidence of disease? Salmon farming is a long term business. It takes three years to see any profit from the time the eggs are put in trays at the hatcheries. Hiding disease would be almost impossible to do given the staggered production cycles, and the risk of destroying a three year investment would be too high, especially if there was a disease and it spread to other farms owned by other companies. You would see lawsuits all over the place, it would be impossible to hide an outbreak of ISA.

        Fish farmers are certainly concerned about Ms. Morton sampling results but her methods are so poor they cannot be certain her results are legitimate. Farmers are talking about doing more testing, and the CFIA sampling program for wild fish starts this spring and should provide some good information about what viruses are present in wild fish. And meanwhile the regular random sampling of farmed fish continues.

      2. salmonfarmscience; “You are right, it makes no sense for fish farmers to put their own business at risk. That’s why they have been regularly providing fish to the provincial and now federal governments for testing for nearly a decade. This testing has been done using good quality samples and standard tests and has never found evidence of ISA.”

        That’s good. But in order to find the viruses commen to atlantic salmon, one have to screen for them. There are reasons to belive that some patogens have never been screened for, until recently. And then not in full.

        salmonfarmscience; “Farmers are talking about doing more testing, and the CFIA sampling program for wild fish starts this spring and should provide some good information about what viruses are present in wild fish. And meanwhile the regular random sampling of farmed fish continues.”

        Good. But sampling for patogens in wild fish is sometimes very difficult. You will have to sample from stressed fish. Natural stress can be found when spawning and during transition from river to sea, so it will have to be from these fish one can expect to find high enough levels to be able to reproduse and sequence. Fishfarms on the other hand, will usually be the first to pick up a virus, and therefor the best place to start looking for them.

        We honestly hope that the results from Ms.Morton’s testing are wrong, scince this would represent a huge danger both for farmed as well as for wild fish in BC, should they be correct. Therefor we strongly urge both sides of this debate to cooperate to find the truth as soon as possible. That means that one have to discard old disagreements, and focus on the thoroughly testing needed. It will be the best for both sides in BC to put away the arms for now. Let’s find out for sure, and continue the disagreements later.

        Rune Jensen
        SalmonCamera

      3. The problem with sampling fish from a fish farm first, is that if something is found, a lazy scientist could work on the assumption that “it was found on the farms, therefore it must have originated on the farms.” Of course, correlation does not equal causation.

        Increased testing on farms needs to be done in conjunction with wild sampling as well, and there is a 30-year database of frozen fish samples at DFO that would be a great place to start.

        It is our understanding that salmon farmers have been screening for ISA, IHN, SLV and several other serious aquatic diseases since at least 2003.

        We are confident that the ongoing and new testing programs will help provide good answers grounded in science. We believe it is important for the people who hate fish farms to drop the allegations of government conspiracies, since they are patently ridiculous, and have faith that the government testing labs will do a good, impartial job searching for answers, as we have already seen them do when ISA was discovered in salmon in Eastern Canadian farms.

  3. salmonfarmscience about ISA Shelburne Harbour!! You are missing the point!! Where did I say anything about wild salmon? Where did that come from?
    In fact DFO & salmon farmers say aquaculture diseases don’t affect wild Pacific salmon!! Are they wrong??
    This is about BC salmon farmers allowing CFIA to permit the sale of ISA contaminated Farmed Salmon on to the fish counters in our province.
    Ever see sport fishers angling around your pens?? I have! Ever wonder what they have for bait and where it came from? Atlantic salmon is great flounder bait and it could be ISA infected material at the farm door thanks to CFIA.
    Are you not concerned?

    1. No, you are missing the point. You are concerned about diseases from farmed salmon with ISA sold in grocery stores in B.C. ending up in the ocean. As we said, fair enough.

      But if this concerns you, then you must also be concerned about all the diseases from wild Pacific salmon sold in grocery stores in B.C. ending up back in the ocean, diseases which have actually been proven to exist in Pacific salmon and proven to kill Pacific salmon. We have no idea if the wild salmon sold in grocery stores had disease or not, because nobody tested them. This should be a greater concern since it happens every single day, whereas it is extremely remote that salmon will be shipped all the way across the country to be sold in B.C. supermarkets which already have a regular supply of local fresh and frozen salmon, wild and farmed.

  4. The Atlantic Fisherman has just reported that CFIA has given Cooke Aquaculture permission to market ISA diseased farmed salmon. You seem to represent the industry! Surly you are not going to stand silently by and allow CFIA to permit importation into our province of ISA + fish. It may or maynot affect humans but is will destroy your industry. The virus might not enter your pens directly but there are plenty of carriers like trout and herring who can carry it right into your pens after being infected. CIFA allowing the fish to be sold to the public gets the government off the compensation hook and that is what really matters!!!
    The Cabringe lab says HMSI is here how will you stop ISA????

      1. Would you mind answering our post further down. We are interesting in knowing your view on it.

      2. Hello Rune, we assume you mean this post:

        We understand your point, and your wish to protect your industry.
        But if your objective is to clear fishfarming from the alligations of fishfarming spreading exotic viruses to the pasific, the only way to prove her wrong is to let scientists sample your netpens for ISA, HSMI, PD and other patogens.
        Accusing one person, or a group of persons to be dishonest about the facts, without letting science in, will only fuel the ever increasing opinion that belive there is “something fishy”.
        It really doesen’t need to be Ms. Morton doing the work, but a neuteral group of scientists. If they can not be found in BC or Canada, we will be happy to help you find neutral scientists from Norway come sample your netpens. The way we see it, this is possibly the only way to clear or confirm the status of ISA and HSMI in BC.

        Rune Jensen
        SalmonCamera

        We don’t really see a question here but we will try and answer your points.

        First of all, our objective is not to clear fish farming in B.C. of anything. Our objective is to talk about science, and point out good and bad science.

        Second, scientists do regularly sample farmed fish for pathogens such as the ones you mentioned. They work for the provincial and federal governments. If their credibility is in question, that is another debate (shall we then question government scientists in all fields, or just aquaculture because it is our pet peeve? Who is truly independent?)

        Third, We criticize Ms. Morton’s scientific claims because they are simply bad science. She makes wild claims in the media with very shaky scientific foundations. Yet it is left to salmon farmers to prove she is wrong. No, she should be challenged to prove she is right. That is what we are trying to do here.

        As it stands, she is the only person who seems able to find fish infected with exotic pathogens, which thousands of other rigorously-controlled samples collected and tested by government scientists have never yielded.

        We question that, because according to her narrative, government scientists are involved in a massive cover-up and/or are all incompetent, and she is the only one who has it right.

        She is never willing to admit the possibility that she might be wrong, or that her methods might be faulty.

        That is bad science, through and through.

      3. Very easy, I am in retail. Like most other retail items there are buyers out there who know there is a fire sale in salmon from Shelburne Harbour. Buy low, sell high! Salmon from the east coast could end up anywhere on any fish counter. My question is, do we here in BC have any assurance that the salmon in our grocery stores did not come from the east coast? It is all about $$$$$$$$$$$$$! Do we know how left over infected material would be disposed of? Down the drain, to a bio secure disposal site or into a brook by someones camp? There is a reason wild fish hang around processing plants and free meals. It’s easy! Once it is out in the wild you have no control over where it goes. Sea run trout could eaisly carry it into salt water.

      4. Fair enough, but if you are that concerned about the possibility for disease from farmed salmon sold in the store to somehow reach wild salmon in the ocean, are you also then concerned about the possibility of disease from wild salmon sold in the store somehow reaching wild salmon in the ocean? Because the possibility of that happening via your scenario is quite a bit higher, especially considering that wild-caught salmon are not tested for anything before they are sold.

      5. salmonfarmscience; “As it stands, she is the only person who seems able to find fish infected with exotic pathogens, which thousands of other rigorously-controlled samples collected and tested by government scientists have never yielded.”

        This is a bit thin, since Alexandra Morton has not found any of these patogens. She has done the sampling, but the testing has been done by at least two labs that are world leading in their field. One of them the referance lab on ISA (Fred Kibenge) and the other in Norway (Are Nylund). Both of them has found ISA, Nylund found a weak positive in degraded material (HPR0) and Kibenge also found ISA (HPR0 in the first material that was degraded) and HPR5 in other samples. So saying that Morton has found this, is just wrong.
        To be able to reproduce and secuense the findings in order to say something about the patogen origo, one must have good samples of Atlantic Salmon, and the only place known to us where to find it, is in netpens. Therefor it is of great importance that the fishfarming industry cooperate with the scientists that are able to find the patogens. Why the Canadian DFO and others are unable to find these, is a bit strange.

        salmonfarmscience; “First of all, our objective is not to clear fish farming in B.C. of anything. Our objective is to talk about science, and point out good and bad science.”

        In your oppinion, do you agree or disagree that that the refrencelabs for ISA are practising good science? They are doing the science, Morton is doing the sampling from the sources available to her.

        salmonfarmscience; “Third, We criticize Ms. Morton’s scientific claims because they are simply bad science. She makes wild claims in the media with very shaky scientific foundations. Yet it is left to salmon farmers to prove she is wrong. No, she should be challenged to prove she is right. That is what we are trying to do here. ”

        The best way the salmonfarmers can prove her wrong, is to let her sample from their facilities. She can still prove that the patogens are present in the netpens, by analyzing other fish, but this method is much more timeconsuming and therefor the fishfarmers will continue to be under suspiction while these investigations go on. Giving her admission to the fishfarms, could give resaults in just a few days.

        Besides, and not understandable; IF she is right and he fishfarmers continue to deny that the viruses are there, this will most certain lead to the same economical losses for the fishfarmers of BC as the loss fishfarmers feel in Norway and Chile. Would it not be of great importance for the fishfarmers to take appropriate actions to avoid such losses?? This was a question.

        One single average fishfarm in Norway will loose 20million NOK (3,6 US$) for one outbreak of PD. To avoid these outbreakes, the farmers take certain actions to make the chance of such an event as small as possible. If the fishfarmers of BC continue to operate in scientific darkness, they risk to suffer large economical losses. Would it not be better to know for sure, and thereby take the appropriate actions?

      6. On the virus issue:

        Weak positives in PCR tests do not necessarily mean a virus is present, as Nylund himself pointed out. He also ran that same sample more than 30 times and was not able to replicate the results. Nylund has suggested the theory that there may be something naturally occurring in the Pacific Ocean that looks like ISA on a PCR test, perhaps even some sort of proto-ISA virus which has been here for millennia, or at least since Atlantic salmon and trout were introduced to the Pacific more than 135 years ago. We also believe this is a highly plausible explanation for “positive” ISA test results.

        As well, if the strain of ISA which kills Atlantic salmon is actually present in B.C. waters in such high levels that it can be found in random samples collected and submitted by Ms. Morton, salmon farmers would have fish dying from the disease. They do not. They do not even have clinical signs of it in farmed fish.

        Likewise, if a virus which causes HSMI that kills fish in Norway was present in B.C. waters in such high levels that random samples from grocery stores show its presence, salmon farmers would have fish dying from it, too. They do not, and there is no clinical signs of the disease in farmed fish.

        More GOOD science is required, and is currently ongoing. The last thing salmon farmers want is to have their fish dying from disease. But purchasing fish from a grocery store and submitting them for testing with no clear chain of custody or scientific method in place for sampling and handling them is not good science. It is a waste of everyone’s time and is being done deliberately to scare people and create fear, uncertainty and doubt about salmon farming, yet again.

        And once again, Ms. Morton has clearly demonstrated she wants nothing more than to get rid of salmon farming completely. She has also refused several attempts at collaboration and understanding made by salmon farmers, back when she was crusading against sea lice.

        If someone’s sole purpose in life is to put you out of business, why would you give in to their demands to look through all your books and give them access to the physical workings of your business?

        On your question:

        You ask us what we think about the reference labs for ISA. We answer that they can only test what they are given. However, they can also ask for proper documentation for the samples they choose to test. There needs to be a strong degree of confidence in the scientific accountability of these tests, from sampling to PCR results, before we will consider them seriously. And so far, we have not seen that with any samples collected and submitted by Ms. Morton.

  5. According to the Atlantic Fisherman, CIFA has given permission for Cooke Aquaculture to sell the diseased ISA infected Atlantic salmon in the markets. This would avoide the government paying out compensationYou see to speak for the industry, surely you will not be quiet and allow CFIA to permit importation into our province. ISA may or maynot be safe for human consumption but without bio security for BC your whole business is at risk. HSMI according to the Cabringe lab is here how did that happen. Is there anything to keep the diseased ISA + fish from contaminationg your operations. It may not be a direct infection to your operation but there are carriers like trout and herring who could put it right in the pens.

  6. You named this site Salmonfarmscience. Forget Morton! The lab whose work you accept when it agrees with you says there is HMSI in the fish from the Island grocery stores.

    Is their work credible?

    YES OR NO!

  7. You named this site Salmonfarmscience. Forget Morton!!! The lab whose work you accept when it agrees with you is the same one that says HMSI is in these fish from the island
    grocery stores. Is their work accurate and factual?

    YES or NO????????????????

    1. You sound like you have seen the lab report showing HSMI in farmed salmon. We have not, despite emailing Ms. Morton directly and asking for it. She has not responded. Perhaps you could send it to us so we can read it for ourselves.

  8. I don’t get it! Your response to the debate is anything but clear!! I found your site by following a link from Ms Morton’s site. There you lauded to results for the Kibenge lab on the east coast because it supported your hypothesis. The same lab produced results which identified the HMSI virus and you say it is bad science. Which is it??

  9. We have difficult to understand why the fishfarm industry of BC seems to discard any suggestions there are virus present that possibly can hurt themselves. Would it not be a better strategy to invite Morton and a team of experts, to sample for virus in the netpens? Instead it seems more important to make statements suggesting Morton is lying. How better to prove her incompetance than letting her visit all the farms that she want, and make her, Dr.Kibenge or Dr. Nylund do all the tests they want. That would be an very effective way of proving a point.

    1. That’s a good point, but the fact is, Ms. Morton has been invited to work with salmon farms many times in the past. Back when sea lice was the cause du jour Ms. Morton toured several farms and was invited to watch the farms’ sea lice sampling procedures. She refused to watch.

      As for asking for samples from farms, she prefers to make rhetorical demands in the media instead of contacting farms privately to try and work constructively. She prefers to smear mud on windows in attention-getting stunts instead of trying to work constructively with farms.

      In short, it is clear her goal is to get rid of farms entirely. She has made no secret of that.

      If someone wants to bulldoze your house and make you move, why would you give them flowers from your garden?

      1. We understand your point, and your wish to protect your industry.
        But if your objective is to clear fishfarming from the alligations of fishfarming spreading exotic viruses to the pasific, the only way to prove her wrong is to let scientists sample your netpens for ISA, HSMI, PD and other patogens.

        Accusing one person, or a group of persons to be dishonest about the facts, without letting science in, will only fuel the ever increasing opinion that belive there is “something fishy”.

        It really doesen’t need to be Ms. Morton doing the work, but a neuteral group of scientists. If they can not be found in BC or Canada, we will be happy to help you find neutral scientists from Norway come sample your netpens. The way we see it, this is possibly the only way to clear or confirm the status of ISA and HSMI in BC.

        Rune Jensen
        SalmonCamera

  10. Well said Dave. If a disease like this were present, much like ISA, the farms would be the hardest hit and would be actively trying to deal with it. There is no conspiracy!

  11. Fear mongering seems to be a pattern with Ms. Morton…we have good fish health results on our farms and our teams are always monitoring and testing!

  12. Alexandra Morton is a master of media manipulation, and sadly is wasting too many peoples’ time on an issue that is fast becoming irrevelent to wild salmon issues in BC.
    If only she would focus her obvious energy and passion on issues more meaningful … things like over harvesting wild stocks, habitat loss, and Alaskan salmon ranching.

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