VANCOUVER – Ecojustice lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith released the following statement in response to the launch of a new federal government assessment on “the risk of transferring piscine orthoreovirus from farmed Atlantic salmon”:

“After years of pushing the issue out of sight, we are encouraged that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is finally going to look into the risk of farmed Atlantic salmon transferring a harmful, highly-contagious disease to wild salmon in the Pacific.

However, we cannot fully welcome this news without a better understanding of the scope, depth, and level of transparency of the assessment.

We also believe that there is already more than enough information available on piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV, to make it unacceptable that the government continues its policy of greenlighting transfers of farmed fish into open net pens in the ocean without first testing for the virus.

We already know that PRV poses more than a minimal threat to wild salmon: it is widespread in farmed Atlantic salmon and there is peer-reviewed evidence that it poses a potentially-deadly threat to wild Chinook.

Unfortunately, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans refuses to adopt a precautionary approach to managing fish farms. As a result, he’s playing a role in exposing severely depleted wild salmon stocks to PRV by authorizing the transfers of millions of farmed Atlantic fish into open net ocean pens along migration routes.

Wild salmon, and Chinook in particular, are clearly in trouble. We urge the government to refrain from using the launch of this assessment as a reason to delay action to protect wild salmon from PRV, and call on the minister to adopt a more cautious approach to protecting this keystone species.”


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

Ecojustice represented independent biologist Alexandra Morton in Federal Court in September, 2018, to argue against Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson’s practice of approving the transfer of farmed Atlantic salmon to open net pens in the Pacific Ocean without first testing for piscine orthoreovirus.

They are currently awaiting a decision on that case.