Portland, OR. – A highly contagious and lethal virus has been detected in wild salmon populations in British Columbia, Canada. Announced in a report yesterday, the virus, infectious salmon anemia (ISA), is being attributed to diminishing sockeye returns in BC rivers. The virus adds another threat to a long list of obstacles Pacific Northwest salmon currently face and points to the urgency of overdue policy changes needed in restoring wild salmon populations in the Columbia and Snake River Basins.
The virus is connected to fish farms, which in Canada are only separated in open water from migrating wild fish populations by nets. Columbia and Snake River salmon, which travel further than any other salmon populations, pass through these areas and are at risk of potentially spreading the disease up and down the West Coast.
Says Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), "Wild salmon have survived for millions of years due to their incredible genetic diversity, but dwindling wild salmon populations are already at risk of extinction and cannot face additional challenges like ISA without serious policy changes directed at their recovery."
Says Jeff Hickman, renowned fly fishing guide, "The wild salmon of the Columbia Basin are a critical part of the Northwest economy and impact thousands of jobs. News of this virus makes it all the more urgent for our Northwest elected leaders to address the serious problems we know salmon now face, to rebuild healthy populations which can in turn help guard against new emerging threats like ISA. It's time to call a solutions table together of the region's stakeholders and get serious about salmon."
Once boasting the most prolific salmon populations in the world, with more than 30 million fish returning, less than one percent of fish now survive, and 13 out of 19 species of salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Snake River system are listed under the Endangered Species Act. All four of the remaining salmon species on the Snake River are either threatened or endangered.
Federal Judge James Redden recently tossed out the federal governments salmon policy for the third consecutive time, citing the plan as "arbitrary and capricious." Salmon advocates and business leaders hope elected leaders take the issue out of the courts and into a collaborative and science-driven process involving stakeholders.