VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- A virus that has hit fish farms hard in eastern Canada, Norway and Chile may be present in wild salmon that spawn in British Columbia, a biologist says.
Bruce Cohen, a justice on the provincial supreme court, has scheduled a two-day special hearing on evidence that the infectious salmon anemia virus could have hit the region, Postmedia News reported. Cohen is leading an inquiry into the sharp drop in numbers of Fraser River salmon.
Alexandra Morton, a biologist who submitted samples of coho and sockeye salmon for testing, blames open-water salmon farms. She said ISA could have arrived in British Columbia with imported salmon eggs.
"It's a complete wild card. We just don't know and that's what has everyone so afraid," she said.
The number of salmon returning to the Fraser to spawn in 2009 dropped to about 1 million, when 10 million had been expected, but bounced back in 2010. The fish-farming industry says 2009 was an anomaly caused by unusual conditions in Queen Charlotte Sound in 2007 when the salmon went to sea.
Wild salmon managers argue the 2009 catastrophe followed years of lower numbers and 2010 was the anomaly.