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New PRV policy leaves wild salmon at risk

Photo by Emily Chan

press release

New PRV policy leaves wild salmon at risk

October 7, 2019

VANCOUVER – Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a new policy on piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) on Thursday, eight months after an Ecojustice victory in the Federal Court forced the department to scrap its previous policy.

However, Ecojustice and its client Alexandra Morton say, the new policy falls short of the substantive changes necessary to protect wild salmon from PRV.

All that appears to have changed is a requirement that farmed salmon be screened for Norwegian and Icelandic strains of the virus, something the government committed to doing over four months ago but apparently has yet to implement.

Ecojustice lawyer and Alexandra Morton issued the following statements in response.

Kegan Pepper-Smith, Ecojustice lawyer:

“Once again, the government has chosen to turn a blind eye to the science and put forward a policy that leaves the health of wild salmon at risk.

Instead of basing its new policy in science and the precautionary principle, the government largely stuck to its existing approach.

As a result, companies remain free to transfer farmed fish infected with PRV to and between open-net pens along wild salmon migration routes, leaving wild salmon vulnerable to the virus.

B.C.’s salmon are in crisis and we are already seeing the impacts of this further up the food chain. Recent images of emaciated bears searching for salmon around the heavily fish-farmed waters of the Broughton Archipelago confirm what Ecojustice and our client, Alexandra Morton, already know: Many wild salmon stocks are in a state of emergency.

With an iconic species rapidly disappearing before our eyes, it is unconscionable that the government continues to enact policies that fail to protect wild salmon from PRV.”

Alexandra Morton, independent biologist:

“This new policy threatens many wild salmon runs with extinction.

I’ve witnessed four consecutive federal Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans ignore both the science and the advice of the courts and leave wild salmon under the threat of PRV from salmon farms.

Meanwhile, in my fieldwork doing research in the Broughton Archipelago, I’ve seen a drastic decline in wild salmon populations, an influx of PRV infection and visibly ill fish, and impacts on the greater ecosystems and other species that rely upon the salmon, including starving grizzly bears.

Even in the face of these dire circumstances, however, there is some reason for hope. First Nation governments in the Broughton Archipelago are leading the way by prohibiting PRV-infected salmon from entering farms in their territory. Their efforts to keep this coast alive offer the best chance at a healthy future for wild salmon.”

Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.