Chronology of a Cover Up in Canada: ISA in British Columbia
Despite seven positive tests of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) in sockeye, chum, coho and chinook salmon within the last six weeks the Canadian Government continues to cover up the presence of ISA in British Columbia.
The Three Wise Monkeys of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) and The Province of British Columbia have adopted the mantra of 'see no evidence of ISA, hear no evidence of ISA, speak no evidence of ISA.'
Positive tests for ISA have now been reported by the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) Reference Laboratory at the University of Prince Edward Island and an independent laboratory at the University of Bergen in three sockeye salmon, two coho, one chum and one chinook from the Fraser River and Rivers Inlet. The European genotype of ISA has been confirmed in sockeye salmon from Rivers Inlet and coho salmon from the Fraser River.
To dismiss the following positive tests reporting ISA in B.C. is positively ridiculous:
- First official report of the European genotype of ISA in sockeye salmon in Rivers Inlet on the Central Coast (read online here)
- Report from the University of Bergen confirming a positive test for sockeye salmon from Rivers Inlet (read online here)
- Internal reports from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the second case of ISA in coho salmon in the Fraser River (read online here)
- OIE Reference Laboratory report on the positive samples in Fraser River coho (European genotype), chinook and chum (read online here)
- Laboratory report from the University of Bergen detailing ISA in coho and sockeye salmon from the Fraser River (read online here)
Please read below a chronology detailing the cover up since the first positive tests were reported in sockeye salmon in Rivers Inlet on October 15 until the sixth and seventh positive tests for ISA in sockeye and coho from the Fraser River reported on November 23. For more details read: “ISA – Diary of Disease Disaster” published in October.
October 15: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was first officially notified of two positive results of the European strain of ISA in sockeye salmon sampled in Rivers Inlet – known officially as ‘ISAV #1’ – by the OIE Reference Laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College in the University of Prince Edward Island.
October 18: The day after the news was released at a press conference at Simon Fraser University (SFU), the CFIA ordered that the 48 samples collected by Professor Rick Routledge of SFU be placed under quarantine.
[‘Internal’ documents published online by Fishyleaks]
October 19: The BC Minister of Agriculture Don McRae, in response to a Parliamentary Question from Michael Sather MLA, stated in the BC Parliament: “The reality is this. The lab results were sent to PEI. They were sent to PEI. They were not following protocol when, instead of actually contacting CFIA, they went directly to SFU, which in turn went to the media. When CFIA then, in turn, said, "We'd like to do our test samples," and said, "We'd like to test the fish," well, unfortunately, I'm advised that the tested-positive results at the PEI lab were destroyed, and therefore, not available to CFIA.” (read more via: “Don McRae – the Man Whose Brain Went on Vacation!”).
October 20: The CFIA places a ‘Quarantine Order’ on 50 further samples collected by University of British Columbia.
October 20: The CFIA was officially notified by the OIE Reference Laboratory of positive tests for the European strain of ISA in coho (known as ISAV #2) – as well as chum and chinook – from the Fraser River (Weaver Creek). [Note that it was not until November 2 that Dr. Alexandra Morton, who sent the samples to the OIE Reference Laboratory, was officially notified - online here].
October 21: A joint statement from the Canadian Minister of Fisheries (Keith Ashfield) and Minister of Agriculture (Gerry Ritz) – made publicly available by Marine Harvest - included: “The recent reports stating that ISA has been found in British Columbia salmon have not yet been verified by federal officials through established processes. After initial investigations, we are concerned that proper protocols may not have been followed in the testing and reporting of these findings. CFIA and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are working to assess the results through scientifically sound and internationally recognized procedures, which must include additional testing to verify the presence or absence of ISA virus in these samples.”
October 21: Clearly under pressure from the CFIA heavy heavy mob, Dr. Fred Kibenge from the OIE Reference Laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College (University of Prince Edward Island) wrote to GAAIA: “It has been brought to my attention that you posted the OIE notification on your website. Dr. Richard Routledge released this information in error and had informed me that it had been removed from the website he had released it at. This information was not intended for the public and should not be posted anywhere publically. Please remove it from your website.”
In another email Dr. Kibenge stated: “I can only inform those people I know who are posting the OIE notification that they are doing something wrong. I repeat: Dr. Richard Routledge released this information in error.”
Another email from Anna MacDonald, Media Relations and Communications Officer, at the University of Prince Edward Island (sent in error) urged Dr. Kibenge: “This is getting into dangerous territory. I understand your concern, but I am worried that this will backfire on you. Don Staniford is a wild salmon activist. I doubt that he would remove the link even if you answer his questions.”
The public can still read Dr. Kibenge’s report in full online here.
October 24: A Ministerial Statement – “Federal Investigation into Infectious Salmon Anaemia Virus in British Columbia Salmon” – from Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries) and Gerry Ritz (Minister of Agriculture) published by DFO included: “Over the past 2 years, over 500 wild and farmed salmon in British Columbia have been tested by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. From 2003 to 2010, the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture operated a scientifically designed surveillance program that tested over 4,700 farmed salmon in BC. Again, all samples were negative for the virus. In short, there has never been a confirmed case of ISA in British Columbia salmon – farmed or wild.”
October 25: A letter by the Minister of Fisheries, Keith Ashfield, and Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz in The Vancouver Sun included: “The CFIA and Fisheries and Oceans have acquired additional tissue samples from the 48 sample fish. The national ISA reference laboratory in Moncton will analyze these samples. These tests could take up to four or five weeks to complete. Until testing is finalized, it is important that Canadians and others reserve judgment and let the appropriate scientific process run its course.”
October 25: A press release from Mainstream – based upon information provided by Paul Kitching (British Columbia Provincial Veterinarian, Ministry of Agriculture) and Gary Marty (British Columbia Provincial Fish Pathologist) - included: “Results from a laboratory in Prince Edward Island, Canada, were positive for Infectious Salmon Anaemia Virus (ISAV) nucleic acid in two wild sockeye salmon smolts out of 48 tested. The fish were not showing any clinical signs consistent with ISA (the diseases caused by ISAV). Therefore, these are positive PCR test results only; they do not confirm that the fish had ISA.”
“The PCR tests were done in a laboratory that is a designated OIE reference laboratory. However, OIE has no responsibility for the quality of the work, and makes no financial contribution to the running of the laboratory. OIE has no laboratories of its own, so the test was not "carried out by OIE". A positive PCR by itself is not sufficient, by the OIE's own definition, to say that either the virus or disease is present in BC. The laboratory in PEI, even though it is an OIE reference laboratory, has responsibility to report a positive ISA result to the Canadian OIE representative: the Canadian Chief Veterinary Officer, Brian Evans. Dr. Evans would then report a positive case to OIE. At this stage we do not have a positive case for OIE reporting purposes.”
October 31: Fishyleaks posted ‘internal’ updates on ‘ISAV #1’ and ‘ISAV #2’ from the CFIA – detailing how the Canadian Government privately briefed trade partners including China, Japan, the European Union and the United States on a second case of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) in coho salmon in the Fraser River.
October 31: GAAIA wrote to the Canadian Government detailing “A History of Incompetence, Silence and Arrogance”. The letter included: “It is becoming abundantly clear that the Canadian Government and the Norwegian-owned salmon farming companies who control 92% of B.C.’s salmon farms have blood on its hands in relation to the spread of the European genotype of ISA to wild salmon in British Columbia – and potentially beyond the borders of Canada into Washington, Alaska, Russia, Japan, Oregon and California......
GAAIA alleges that the Canadian Government - as represented by various agencies including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) - are guilty of incompetence, silence and arrogance as well as negligence. In terms of the latter, GAAIA has consulted with a lawyer with a view to a private prosecution or lawsuit related to mischief, breach of public trust and/or malfeasance. Moreover, once the salmon farming company or companies responsible for spreading ISA have been identified it will open the floodgates to legal action” (download letter in full online here).
For more details read a press release – “Nightmare on Fraser River”
November 2: The OIE Reference Laboratory at the University of Prince Edward Island reports the European strain of ISA in coho salmon from the Fraser River and ISA in chinook and chum from the Fraser River (read the report online here).
November 2: A laboratory report from Professor Are Nylund at the University of Bergen confirmed a positive test for sockeye salmon from Rivers Inlet (read the report online here).
November 8: The Cohen Commission wrote to GAAIA asking that the CFIA documents published online via ‘Fishyleaks’ be removed (read the letter online here). Read the CFIA’s ‘Internal’ reports on ‘ISAV #1’ and ‘ISAV #2’ online here.
November 8: A press conference hosted by the CFIA, DFO and the Province included the following statement from Dr. Cornelius Kiley from the CFIA: “There is no evidence that ISAv occurs in fish in the waters of British Columbia.”
Alexandra Morton wrote in her blog: “However, the Norwegian scientist at the University of Bergen, who has studied and tracked ISA virus through Norway and Chile who did the tests says: "Our results are not conclusive, but do suggest ... that an ISA virus is present in wild populations of O. nerka (Pacific sockeye)," Dr. Are Nylund, a professor of biology at the University of Bergen, wrote in an email exchange with The Seattle Times.
The CFIA and the federal and provincial government turned 6 ISA virus positive tests into negatives, because they were apparently unable to reproduce the results. Since the labs that arrived at positives results are world-accredited labs, this calls into question the ability of the government lab. They have not released the actual results and said they were not going to share the samples with the U.S. They did not explain how the World Animal Health Reference Lab results were invalid. They reasoned that the positive result from the Norwegian lab (verifying the World Animal Health lab's results) were actually a negative because the quality of the tissue was degraded.”
Catherine Stewart wrote in her blog “ISA test results inconclusive”: “The BC Salmon Farmers are crowing over today’s media conference announcing the results of further testing for the ISA virus in Pacific salmon. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the salmon farming industry’s public relations division – aka DFO Aquaculture Branch – tried their best to sound neutral and unbiased but were clearly pleased to report their findings to date. But not so fast (spin) doctors……So the spin will be ‘no ISA in BC’ while the reality is the tests are totally inconclusive, ISA might be present or it might not, the salmon farmers continue to do their own sampling and testing (but are ‘sharing’ the results of their in-house fish health audits with the Province) and the Canadian government agencies are going to move at a glacial pace before doing anything because after all – what’s the rush?.”
Ivan Doumenc, reporting via his blog ‘Salmongate’, wrote: “Dr. Kiley’s seduction attempt did not succeed. He was met instead with a barrage of hard questions by a very skeptical bunch of journalists. A reporter from the Seattle Times asked some of the most relevant questions of the conference as he tried to piece together the contradictory information he was receiving from his various sources:
Q: You say all tests are negative. But Dr. Nylund from the reference laboratory in Norway told me in an email that the samples suggest ISA is present. Explain this discrepancy.
A: We would consider his report as inconclusive. We would consider that to be negative, because it was not repeatable. Dr. Nylund got only one positive from multiple tests on one sample. And he said it was not reproducible. So technically, according to CFIA standards, it is negative.
Like a compromised fish sample, the quality of the government’s message degraded rapidly. They had started with the solid, simple line that all results were negative. Then, under journalistic pressure, they retreated to a very different and much more complex place, that the results were actually inconclusive. And then, they moved to the realm of the incomprehensible, by stating that a positive could technically be read as a negative. They were losing their grip over their media conference.”
Listen to the press conference online here
Read more background online via “Positively Negative - How the CFIA Failed to Defuse ISA in BC”
November 8: DFO posted a document - “Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) Virus – Accepted Testing Methods” – including: “The PCR is a highly sensitive test that sometimes produces false positive results; because of this, these presumptive positive samples require further confirmatory testing to ensure their validity.....To date, no attempts to isolate the suspect ISA virus in cell culture have been successful by any laboratory; nor has any sequencing data been produced. Thus, there have been no confirmed findings of ISA in the samples.
November 9: The CFIA issued a news release – “No Confirmed Cases of Infectious Salmon Anaemia in British Columbia” – stating: “DFO has tested all 48 samples received as part of the original reports and the results are all negative for the virus. These results are consistent with the findings of an independent laboratory in Norway, which also tested samples associated with this investigation and provided a report to the CFIA.”
However, this statement contradicts the findings of the independent laboratory in Norway which reported (November 2) a positive test of ISA in sockeye salmon.
Read the report in full online here.
This positive test for ISA was identified in the same sample (#36) as the OIE Reference Laboratory – using different tissues (gills not hearts). Hence the chances of recording ‘false positives’ in the same sample (out of 48 samples) in two different tissue samples by two different laboratories are remote.
November 10: A news release – “Test results indicate no confirmed cases of ISA in B.C. salmon” – issued by the Department of Fisheries & Oceans and the BC Ministry of Agriculture included: “The National Reference Laboratory has completed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, a sensitive but preliminary test, that has shown no presence of ISA in the samples provided; this is the same process that was reportedly used in the original claims of positive test results by individual sources.”
Minister of Fisheries, Keith Ashfield, said: “We can now confirm that, preliminary analysis, using proper and internationally recognized procedures, has found that none of the samples has tested positive for ISA. In recent years, over 5000 fresh, properly stored and processed salmon have been tested by the BC government and Fisheries and Oceans Canada and there has never been a confirmed case of ISA in British Columbia salmon.”
November 21: CBC News reported: “But retesting of the samples at a Fisheries and Oceans Canada lab in Moncton couldn't confirm the presence of ISA. The federal government is now reviewing the whole process, including the collection and handling of the samples in BC, and testing procedures at both labs.
"You have to determine whether or not that test has been properly validated," said Peter Wright, manager of the Fisheries and Oceans lab. "This is what provides anybody with the confidence in test results."
In an email to CBC News Fred Kibenge, the director of the lab at AVC, said the results given to the Routledge weren't conclusive. Kibenge said further testing needed to be done to confirm ISA was present. He said his lab has no control over how a client uses test results once they've been released to them.”
November 22: A letter from the Deputy Minister of Agriculture (Wes Shoemaker) to Les Braden included: “The Province’s former fish health program examined over 4,700 dead fish for evidence of disease, including ISA. The Ministry of Agriculture’s fish pathologist has found fish that had some abnormalities (lesions) which could have been caused by the ISA virus; however, these were non-specific and there could have been multiple causes. To rule out ISA, additional testing, such as histopathology and Polymerase Chain Reaction, was conducted and the results were always negative for ISA.”
“The CFIA’s position is that ISA has not been confirmed thus far and the investigation is ongoing. The CFIA says it is aware of a possible report of ISA and as part of its investigation is working with partners to determine if, in fact, there is indeed a case of ISA. If confirmed, this would be the first evidence of the virus ISA virus in British Columbia. The CFIA is obtaining more of the material from Simon Fraser University to test in the DFO laboratory in Moncton, New Brunswick, and is also looking at other samples collected by itself and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in British Columbia.
The virus is not known to be found naturally in British Columbia salmon, including sockeye, and all published evidence suggests Pacific salmon are resistant to ISA infection. In British Columbia there has been no high mortality events in farmed Atlantic salmon related to ISA.
The Province continues to test hundreds of British Columbia farmed salmon every year for ISA, including most recently farmed salmon that died between July and September 2011. Those sampled were part of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Fish Health Auditing and Surveillance Program. All test results have been negative - no virus.
If ISA virus is found in farmed salmon in British Columbia there is an obligation to report it immediately to the CFIA as it is a federally reportable disease. The CFIA would confirm and report to the OIE. It is important to note that the CFIA has not officially confirmed a case of ISA in wild Pacific salmon.”
November 23: The University of Bergen in Norway reported another two positive tests for ISA in wild salmon from the Fraser River – one sockeye and one coho. Read the report in full online here).
November 23: A letter from the Minister of Fisheries, Keith Ashfield, to Alexandra Morton included: “The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), in close collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Province of British Columbia and the Atlantic Veterinary College, continues to investigate your report of ISA in British Columbia salmon. Based on analysis conducted at DFO's national reference laboratory, there have been no confirmed cases of ISA in wild or farmed salmon in British Columbia. Testing in support of this investigation has been ongoing since mid-October when a laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College reported that it had detected the virus.
The Department has tested all 48 samples received as part of the original investigation and the results are all negative for the virus. These results are consistent with the findings of an independent laboratory in Norway, which also tested samples associated with this investigation and provided a report to CFIA. All additional samples that have been collected and tested as part of this investigation have also been negative for ISA. However, these supplementary results must be considered inconclusive due to the poor quality of the samples. Additional testing continues to be conducted and the results will be released once they have been verified” (read in full online here).
November 25: An open letter from Alexandra Morton to the Minister of Fisheries, Keith Ashfield, included: “You can stop calling the 1st Norwegian tests a "negative" result. Be more accurate and call them what they are - a weak positive. You can't wave a magic wand and make black white. I want to see Dr. Gary's Marty's PCR results. Don't just tell us he tested 5000 fish and got a negative, you need to tell us what segment and what probe, we need details because you are risking our fish with your actions.”
Positive reports of ISA in B.C.:
Read the first official report of ISA (European genotype) in sockeye salmon in Rivers Inlet on the Central Coast - online here
Read the official reports from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the second case of ISA (European genotype) in coho salmon in the Fraser River - online here
Read the report from the OIE Reference Laboratory on the positive samples in Fraser River chinook and chum (and coho) – online here
Read the report from the Norwegian laboratory confirming a positive sample in Rivers Inlet sockeye – online here
Read the report from the Norwegian laboratory on two further positives in sockeye and coho salmon in the Fraser River – online here
More details via:
“Positively Negative - How the CFIA Failed to Defuse ISA in BC” (November 9)
“ISA Spreads to Fraser River Chinook and Chum Salmon; European strain in Coho; Confirmed in Sockeye” (November 2)
“Fishyleaks: ISA reported in coho salmon in the Fraser River” (October 31)
“Nightmare on the Fraser River” (October 31)
“The Man With the Smoking Gun” (October 24)
“ISA – Diary of Disease Disaster” (October 2011)
“Fish Farmageddon – The Infectious Salmon Aquacalypse” (August 2011)