Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Secret Salmon Science

As one of the brothers in Lewis Carroll's The Two Brothers laments,
Take my friends and my home - as an outcast I'll roam: Take the money I have in the bank: It is just what I wish, but deprive me of fish, And my life would indeed be blank.
This ichthyophile brother would surely be alarmed at the crisis now facing wild salmon stocks on the Pacific coast of North America.

Salmon can contract an influenza-related virus that causes infectious salmon anemia ("ISA").  For the past few decades ISA has been devastating salmon populations from Norway and Scotland to the Canadian Maritimes and Chile, sometimes killing more than 9 out of every 10 fish.  Critics of salmon farming have blamed the spread of ISA on the high densities of fish kept together in ocean-borne cages, along with frequent piscine jailbreaks into the wild.

In October, 2011, ISA was diagnosed among wild pacific salmon in British Columbia by the ISA Reference Laboratory at the Atlantic Veterninary College, in Prince Edward Island.  Although these diagnoses were quickly disputed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it now appears that Canada may have made similar diagnoses as long ago as 2002.  If so, it seems that Canada failed in its obligations to inform the United States and the World Organization for Animal Health.

Salmon farming is especially controversial on the Pacific coast of North America, because of the existence of a thriving wild salmon fishery.  Fears that escapees from fish farms there could spread diseases to these wild populations have generally been dismissed by fish farmers.

If ISA has indeed infected wild Pacific salmon populations, Carroll's other, ichthyophobic, brother would surely be delighted:
What? a higher delight to be drawn from the sight of fish full of life and of glee? What a noodle you are! ‘Tis delightfuller far to kill them than let them go free!
Too bad Dudley Do-Right did not do right by the salmon.