SEATTLE, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- A highly contagious virus that is deadly to salmon has been discovered for the first time in Pacific salmon off the coast of British Columbia, officials say.
The virus, although not a threat to humans, is seen as a serious danger to fish populations in Pacific salmon farms, KCPQ-TV, Seattle, reported Tuesday.
The European strain of Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus is believed to have arrived in fish eggs transported from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Many biologists are calling for the removal of Atlantic salmon from British Columbia salmon farms.
"Loosing a virus as lethal and contagious as ISA into the North Pacific is a cataclysmic biological threat to life," Alexandra Morton of Simon Fraser University said.
The virus, first discovered in Norway in 1984, has probably been loose in British Columbia waters for years, she said.
SFU's Rick Routledge said a decline in the salmon population is a threat to the entire food chain, including grizzly bears and orca whales.
"The potential impact of ISA cannot be taken lightly," he said. "There must be an immediate response to assess the extent of the outbreak, determine its source, and to eliminate all controllable sources of the virus -- even though no country has ever eradicated it once it has arrived."