Three heavy hitters in BC’s fisheries and aquaculture science community have published a new study after a laboratory challenge of several different species of salmon.
The study investigated the phenomenon of yellow (jaundiced) fish from a Chinook farming operation in Clayoquot Sound; the level of Piscene Reovirus (PRV) in these fish compared to other species; and any disease associated with jaundiced fish and PRV infection.
In our controlled laboratory exposure study, we demonstrated that PRV persisted in each of the Chinook Salmon, Sockeye Salmon and Atlantic Salmon for 5 months after ip challenge without resulting in microscopic evidence of HSMI or any other disease.
Our study supports the hypothesis that exposure to PRV is not solely responsible for the development of Jaundice Syndrome. It may be possible that the presence of PRV is not contributory towards jaundice in Chinook but rather that its association is merely a reflection of the ubiquitous presence of PRV in wild and farmed salmon species of BC.
The research supports the conclusion that in Pacific waters, PRV is not connected to the Heart and Skeletal Muscular Inflammation (HSMI) disease, and that there is no connection between PRV and the jaundice phenomenon in farmed Chinook salmon.
The recapture of the infected escaped salmon in nearby marine sites highlights the potential contribution of escapees in virus transmission to other salmon farms in the area.
…little is known about the effect of viral disease outbreaks in aquaculture on the wild salmonid populations. Disease outbreaks in salmon farms may lead to a substantial increase in infection pressure on wild fish in the surrounding area.
…escaped salmon may disperse over long distances, may enter rivers and may interact with wild conspecifics in their habitats. Therefore, an infected escapee may spread pathogens from the sea to wild fish populations in both sea and rivers distant from a disease outbreak.
That’s interesting, but there’s one big problem, which the researchers acknowledge.
…baseline data from the river regarding these viral infections in salmonids are lacking.
They cannot answer the question: how do the levels of viral loading on farmed salmon escapees compare to the natural viral loads in wild salmon?
As Yoda once said:
Too bad this flaw doesn’t stop their speculation.
This could have been an excellent study if the researchers had taken some time to get data on wild fish in the rivers where escapees were found and sampled. Of course, wild fish sampled from these rivers post-escape would not provide any valuable baseline data, but they could at least provide information about viral loading in wild fish.
And the researchers could have also gotten some control data from other similar rivers where no escapees are found.
But it seems that in the rush to be able to declare this paper the “first” at something, or because it was outside the scope of the finding grant, they decided to sacrifice context in favour of speculation.
At least it does provide some good information about viral loading in escaped farmed salmon in Norway. It will undoubtedly be valuable to the researchers that decide to investigate natural viral loading in wild fish in Norwegian rivers.
Alexandra Morton has just self-shredded any last vestiges of credibility she may have had with her cynical new ad campaign, in which she tells tall tales while pandering to the lowest common denominator of stupidity.
With the two ads shown so far (below) she’s jumped on the anti-vaccine crazy train AND got a first-class ticket in the Food Woo Clown Car up front. Her ads assume that the people who will read them are stupid, gullible suckers. She is insulting the very people from whom she is soliciting donations.
Crowdfunding has a positive place in the charity landscape, but it is also ripe for abuse.
So guess what she’s going to do, suckers. She’s going to fool you. You’ll never know exactly how she spends all the consequence-free cash you’re giving her. She has no obligation to ever tell you. All you have is her word.
There’s no action plan attached to the campaign. The only commitment is to “make a high impact advertising purchase to run a series of ads.”
That could mean anything.
Sure, you might see a few billboards in Vancouver, or a newspaper ad in the Sun. But you’ll never know the true cost of the ad campaign. You’ll never know if she’s pocketed the leftover cash.
Here’s a tip: if you donate, ask her to publish all receipts related to the campaign on her blog. After all, if she’s so trustworthy, she’s got nothing to hide, right?
Insult #2: Anti-vaccine crazy train ad
First of all, look at how this ad is attributed to “Department of Wild Salmon” and the deptwildsallmon.org website. Currently that link forwards to alexandramorton.ca, Morton’s personal website and the heart of this campaign. But isn’t it interesting that if this campaign takes a turn that’s not in her favour, she could simply disconnect that link between the sites? Clever, n’est pas?
Second, the ad implies, through the use of a syringe, that farmed salmon are injected with drugs for delousing.
Sea lice treatments are provided in feed. Guess a dog food-like pellet doesn’t make for a scary image though.
The only time farmed salmon ever receive injections is when they are vaccinated at the hatchery against common ocean diseases.
Morton knows this. She knows sea lice treatments are given only in feed.
We can only conclude that by attempting to link injections, salmon and scariness, Morton is putting herself in the same camp as anti-vaccine idiots, and she’s doing it wilfully. That’s cynical, and could possibly even be seen as libelous, if anyone feels like getting litigious over these ads.
Yes, salmon feed can contain protein from hogs. So what? Mushrooms grow in horse manure. And guess what. Organic poultry eat feed that includes fishmeal. Chickens would never eat fish in the “wild,” so if farmed salmon eating hog and chicken protein is bad, then so is organic chicken eating anything but bugs and grass.
Salmon convert pork protein into salmon protein. Mushrooms convert manure nutrients into mushrooms. It doesn’t mean that if you eat mushrooms you are eating manure (unless you don’t wash them) and it doesn’t mean that if you eat salmon you are eating pork.
You are NOT what you eat, unless you break it down to the very basic levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Morton is banking on the ignorance of the general public when it comes to farming animals, nutrition and food. Ignorance is one thing, which is easily corrected. But Morton is also banking on the hopes that her audience will be too stupid and gullible to carefully consider her claims.
That’s the insult.
Insult #4: Implying negative health consequences
In the text on her crowdfunding page, Morton stops short of saying that eating farmed salmon is bad for your health, because she knows there’s no proof for that statement (but plenty to the opposite). But you can tell she really wants to when she says “Meanwhile controversy is boiling over in Norway on the health risks of eating farmed salmon echoed by the premier US business news service Bloomberg.”
If you haven’t heard of the Food Babe, she’s a self-proclaimed expert who has made a name for herself, and a huge following, by examining, criticizing and condemning the ingredient lists on food packaging.
As Tuteur shows, she is also banking on a gullible, uneducated audience to promote herself and make a living.
It suggests that making judgements about antibiotic resistance in aquaculture may be difficult: DNA from 30,000 year old microbes recovered from permafrost show antibiotic resistant traits similar to their modern counterparts.
But there isn’t anything new here. They’ve reported this story several times already, but it must have been a slow news day.
Predictably, it again raised the ire of the anti-salmon farming crowd on social media, giving them something to Tweet about on a slow news Monday.
Yes, it’s true salmon farmers in Canada received around $93 million over three years in compensation for being ordered to destroy salmon infected by, or in close proximity to fish infected by, ISA virus and IHN virus.
The market value of those fish, however, would have been at least triple that amount. Nobody made money off compensation; at best, it meant people didn’t have to be laid off because of a massive gap in production. After all, farmed salmon grow for up to two years in the ocean. A chicken takes only eight weeks to grow to harvest, so it’s not nearly as big of a hit if a chicken farmer has to cull a herd.
All farmers get compensation
Compensating farmers for having to destroy their stock is nothing new.
In 2004, BC chicken farmers received $71 million in compensation for destroying nearly 14 million birds.
From 2002-2010, cattle, sheep and chicken farmers received $115 million in compensation for disease outbreaks, costs covered by the Canadian taxpayer.
Yet there’s no moral outrage over that. No calls for chicken farmers to hermetically seal their barns to prevent airborne diseases from entering. No calls for sheep farmers to create massive domes over their pastures with airlocks to keep airborne diseases out. No calls for cattle ranchers to equip each cow with hazmat suits to keep viruses out.
Yet when it involves salmon farms, people think it makes perfect sense to conclude that the solution MUST be moving farms out of the ocean.
The ocean is the best environment to farm fish. And although farmed fish are more susceptible to viruses because they live in closer proximity to each other than wild fish, they still are generally very healthy. More than 90% of the fish entered into the ocean live up to two years to harvest, and that’s with a minimal use of antibiotics, a pittance to what chicken farmers use to keep their herds alive for just eight weeks.
Missing the point of compensation
Farming is hard work. Farmers do not want the hassle — and costs — that come along with a disease outbreak.
Can you imagine what would happen if salmon farmers, faced with a reportable disease diagnosis, just sat on the fish, quickly harvesting them in the hopes that the disease wouldn’t spread too fast? The outrage there would be!
Dozens of companies went out of business. Hundreds of workers lost their jobs.
And although no one’s quantified what potential risk the outbreaks posed to passing wild fish (which carry IHN naturally, that’s where it comes from) it’s certainly never been higher than it was in those three years.
Compensation is intended to encourage farmers of all kinds to act quickly and co-operate with authorities.
Disease and disease control is just a part of farming. It’s the price farmers of all animals — and even vegetables — have to pay for grouping creatures and plants close together.
Nature has always been a battlefield of creatures and viruses trying to find their niche. Within the last 10,000 years we have radically altered that balance by developing agriculture.
It’s the price we pay for civilization.
The key is that we do it properly, with as few environmental impacts as possible. Salmon farming has made great strides since it began just 40 years ago towards being one of the most sustainable forms of livestock production on the planet.
When customers open a box of fresh, farmed salmon only to find the flesh has gone soft after being in storage for a few days, that’s a huge problem for both the customer and the seller. No one wants that to happen.
Most of the fish produced in BC is premium quality. But sometimes soft flesh problems arise.
BC salmon farmers have worked for years to prevent this from happening — after all, premium quality fish command premium quality prices.
The study’s findings suggest that soft flesh is linked to how much glycogen (stored sugar) the fish has in its cells:
“We report for the first time an association between soft flesh of Atlantic salmon and massive intracellular glycogen accumulation coinciding with swollen and degenerated mitochondria, myocyte detachment and altered extracellular matrix protein distribution. The results are important for further understanding the etiology of soft salmon.”
The study authors caution that they are not sure if the accumulation of glycogen is a symptom or cause of soft flesh, but the new findings will definitely help researchers better understand what is happening with soft salmon flesh and get closer to finding a solution.