IHN is everywhere! OMG shut down the salmon farms!

We’ve been laying low on the latest virus/disease issue in B.C. because we didn’t want to muddy the waters.

And besides, the salmon farm companies have been doing a pretty good job getting their story out there.

Earlier this month Mainstream Canada announced the virus had been found on a salmon farm in Clayoquot Sound and last week the company announced it was suspected on another farm in the area.

Grieg Seafood announced earlier this month that there was a “weak positive” at a farm near Sechelt but further testing showed it was negative.

But there are a few gaps we want to address. For one, people don’t seem to understand that IHN is a virus which is found everywhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Yes. Everywhere. It’s been found in California, Oregon, Washington, B.C. and Alaska. One of our friends in salmon farming also told us it’s been found in Russia, Japan, and Korea (it got there thanks to exports of sockeye eggs to Japan from Alaska). They also said it’s been found in France, Italy and Germany (thanks to exports of rainbow trout for farming from Oregon to France) but that it has never been found in Norway.

So all you tinfoil hatters out there, you can’t blame this one on Norway.

But farms got it, therefore it must be from farms, right? OMG shut down the salmon farms!

That was a sarcastic logical fail. Because in reality IHN has been around for at least hundreds of years in the Pacific. It does not come from farms. It has always been in wild salmon, and always will be.

But ewww I don’t want to eat viruses in my salmon.

Don’t eat wild salmon then, since IHN is endemic in the wild salmon population. That means it is naturally found in wild salmon. If you have ever eaten wild salmon, chances are good you have eaten a fish virus too.

This wonderful website has a database of practically every incident of IHN ever recorded in wild and farmed fish populations. It’s not complete, but it’s better than anything we’ve ever seen.

With a few clicks, you can easily see that IHN is everywhere, and in a whole lot of fish in a whole lot of places. That Copper River sockeye, so over-marketed that suckers are willing to pay $22 per pound for it? It’s got viruses too.

IHN database
With this database you can see practically every recorded incident of IHN in wild and farmed salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

Freaking out about viruses is a waste of energy. Viruses are everywhere. They are the most common form of life on this planet. They are on the keyboard currently being used to type this blog (especially if the kids have been touching it). They are on the hands you shook today. They are in the air you breathe. They are on the surface of the cup of half-caff mocha you had this morning from Starbucks. They are in the food you consume. There are millions of them in every single drop of seawater. Not even famous germophobe Howard Hughes, who locked himself in a movie theatre and peed in milk bottles, could escape viruses.

All creatures carry them, and almost all of them do no harm. When we eat those creatures, we eat those viruses. They do no harm to us because they have evolved to parasitize a certain host under certain conditions. Our biology is so radically different from a fish that it is almost impossible that a fish virus could evolve to infect humans, no more than we can give our dog the flu if we sneeze on him.

Are we making a case for you to go vegan? That’s your choice. But remember. Plants have viruses too. Those organic peppers you bought from the farmers market? They are quite likely carrying a plant virus. If you don’t want to eat things with viruses in them, don’t eat anything at all. Don’t even drink water. And don’t breathe.


7 thoughts on “IHN is everywhere! OMG shut down the salmon farms!”

  1. So you agree with the theory that viruses travel in egg since you state that is how IHN got to Japan from Alaska. Why again is ISA not in BC when you imported eggs from an uncertified hatchery in Iceland? More importantly, you imported eggs for three years from Atlantic Canada (DFO records 2001 to 2003) when they had an ISA epidemic raging in their salmon farms? That epidemic did not end until 2007!

    Just wondering?

    1. ISA is not in B.C. because more than 5,000 tests of farmed salmon show it is not. And the risk is not viruses travelling inside eggs, but in the solution the eggs are transported in, the liquid. That’s why whenever eggs were imported to B.C. they underwent disinfection procedures to kill any viruses or bacteria which may have been present.

      It’s also important to remember that imported eggs were not used in broodstock programs, they were used only to grow for harvest. The fish from imported eggs were not mixed with broodstock fish.

      Also you are wrong about eggs being imported from eastern Canada. The last time any eggs were imported from Eastern Canada was in 1993.

  2. Are the same people asking that grocery stores boycott farmed salmon because of a common, harmless virus asking for the same treatment of wild sockeye salmon? After all, IHN is more commonly referred to as ‘sockeye disease’ for a pretty obvious reason…

  3. You are of course quite correct, the IHN virus is distributed over a wide area.

    The vitriolic exchanges with concerned citizens (whom you elegantly refer as tin hatters), cannot be laid directly as much at the doors of the fish farms, but more to the inept risk communication by the federal and provincial regulators.

    It has turned a matter of a lack of science and evidence into a matter of trust.

    But when a salmon farm has a virus outbreak, the fish die, or decay, or spread the virus to adjacent fish farms. Which makes the product unsaleable, and is, correctly, an economic disaster for the company and the local community.

    What the wider community does not know is how and when local viruses escalate into an epidemic in a fish farm and what backward effects are induced on the native salmon.
    If there was ever a challenge for the farmed salmon companies, the challenge is to have some sense of credibility in the scientific evidence advanced by either side.

    With Bill 37, the BC government will remove open discussion of fish viruses from the public domain.

    In my view, the fish farm industry and the wild salmon advocates will now both lose the battle for public trust.

    1. Not really sure what you are trying to say here.

      We agree that the public needs a better understanding of risks and food safety. But are you suggesting that salmon farms amplify diseases? Not likely, given that in the recent incident sick fish were quickly taken out of the ocean before their mortality rates could increase much beyond what is normal on a salmon farm (around 10 percent) so there is no risk of amplification. And remember the IHN outbreak in 2002 – 2003? Were there any spikes in wild salmon mortality as a result of that outbreak which killed 12 million farmed salmon? No. There were not.

      The speculation about amplification is just that, speculation.

      Also, people who blame Norway for every salmon related problem in B.C. are not concerned citizens. They are spouting conspiracy theories without checking any facts for themselves and deserve to be called tin foil hatters.

  4. I LOVE IT! Well done on this research. Geez, it really does prove that those anti-everything wackos making a fuss are nuts. (well paid nuts mind you!).

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