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Virus-infected salmon should not be sold in Nova Scotia


The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture’s decision to give a 20-year permit to Cooke Aquaculture to raise farmed salmon in Liverpool Bay is both devious and reckless.

All hearings, public presentations and other activities related to salmon farm expansion have been put on hold due to COVID-19 and yet the minister responsible, Keith Colwell, approved Cooke’s application for a lease renewal, ignoring both strong public opposition and warnings about the hazards created by this industry.

The fact that this 20-year permit comes at a time when the Trudeau government is committed to curtailing open-net-pen salmon farms on the West Coast by 2025 makes one very suspicious about Colwell’s motives.

It appears Colwell is determined to extend the life of this appalling industry in Nova Scotia before opponents succeed in obtaining similar limits on salmon farms in Atlantic Canada. The stocking of the Liverpool Bay site has already started.

It is ironic that the distraction of the coronavirus has been used to let this decision proceed virtually unnoticed. One of the most serious problems experienced by Cooke and other aquaculture companies has been fish infected with a number of different viruses, including infectious salmon anemia (ISA) and piscine orthoreovirus (PRV). Cooke has grown diseased fish in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Scotland and as far away as Chile.

At one time, diseased fish were destroyed and the industry was compensated by government for the loss. In 2012, Cooke aquaculture received $13 million in compensation for diseased fish which were being raised in Shelburne County. The Canadian Food and Inspection Agency began regulating this industry in 2005, and in 2013 they decided that they could not continue compensating the industry for their losses. At that time, they decided for the first time to approve the sale and processing of fish with this “flu-like” virus and we began seeing it in our supermarkets and fish retailers.

After each cull of virus-infected fish, the public was assured by the industry, the provincial government and the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency that the consumption of these salmon posed no threat to human health. No science or studies related to human consumption of virus-infected salmon has been produced to back up this claim. There is also no requirement for retailers to properly label virus-infected salmon so that Canadians could understand what they were purchasing and consuming. Tons of this virus-infected salmon have been sold in Canada because the U.S., one of the biggest importers of farmed salmon, will not allow it to be sold in that country.

The coronavirus has taught us how little we know about how viruses mutate in unpredictable ways and how they can eventually be transmitted from animals to humans. We are also learning how little our government agencies and scientists know about the development and the spread of deadly viruses.

Colwell’s decision to extend the life of salmon farms in Nova Scotia for another 20 years, at a time when we have so many questions and so few answers, is reckless and raises a number of questions about his motives surrounding this approval at this time.

Atlantic Canadians deserve the same curtailment of open-net-pen salmon farms that is promised on the west coast. There should be an end to the processing and sale of virus-infected salmon in Canada, as there is in the U.S. There must also be proper labelling of all food products so that Canadians can make an informed choice about the health of the products they are consuming.

Wayne Mundle lives in Mushaboom Harbour.