Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Fish Minister Says Salmon Virus Outbreak a 'Normal Business Day': Nova Scotia Minister Downplays Salmon Virus

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Fish Minister Says Salmon Virus Outbreak a 'Normal Business Day': Nova Scotia Minister Downplays Salmon Virus

Article excerpt

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's fisheries minister is facing sharp criticism for suggesting Thursday that a recent viral outbreak at a large fish farm is just a routine part of the aquaculture business.

Asked about the outbreak of infectious salmon anemia at a Cooke Aquaculture operation in Shelburne Harbour, N.S., Sterling Belliveau said: "It's a normal business day, and these particular incidents are being managed in an appropriate fashion."

Rob Johnson, aquaculture co-ordinator for the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, said Belliveau's comments show he's ill-informed and irresponsible.

"That's reprehensible," Johnson said in an interview. "We've seen this virus break out in New Brunswick, it's wiped out the industry in Chile and it's a tremendous threat to the marine ecosystem."

Johnson said the virus could be spread to wild Atlantic salmon, which are already an endangered species.

"This is yet another one that we should be extra vigilant against it," he said. "If (Belliveau) is making light of it by suggesting this is normal business activity, he's ill-informed."

Johnson also said industrial fish farms pose a threat to the lobster fishery because they attract parasitic sea lice.

Infectious salmon anemia first appeared at fish farms in Norway almost two decades ago, then in New Brunswick and later Scotland.

In the late 1990s, New Brunswick salmon farmers slaughtered more than a million fish amid an outbreak. The federal government paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle compensation claims.

The virus was discovered in farmed Nova Scotia salmon as early as 1999, but in much smaller numbers.

Belliveau stressed the virus poses no threat to human health, and he insisted that the early detection and monitoring of the latest case will help stop the spread of the chronic disease.

The virus can kill up to 90 per cent of the salmon it infects, depending on the strain. It attacks the kidneys of salmon and causes discolouration.

"There's no effect on the traditional fishing industry," Belliveau said after a cabinet meeting in Halifax. "I can reassure you, based on the scientific information, that there's no effect on the lobster industry. …

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