Salmon Health: Recent Studies Pack 1-2 Punch Against Open-net Salmon Farms

In May a study by PSF’s Dr. Andrew Bateman: New research indicates pathogen levels are 12 times higher near salmon farms was released. The research indicates that Fraser sockeye are much more likely to harbour the bacterial pathogen Tenacibaculum maritimum when swimming past Discovery Island salmon farms than at other points along their migratory route.

Also stemming from Strategic Salmon Health Initiative data, a second study by UBC’s Art Bass identifies for the first time ever, the two pathogens most closely linked to the survival of free-ranging Pacific salmon in the ocean: Tenacibaculum maritimum, a bacterium that causes ulcerative disease in salmon; and piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), a virus that causes disease in Pacific and Atlantic salmon worldwide.

“This is the first empirical evidence that PRV is negatively impacting wild Pacific salmon in B.C.,” says Dr. Bass, a postdoctoral researcher at UBC’s Pacific Salmon Ecology Conservation Lab. “These two pathogens are common on salmon farms in B.C., and recent studies provide evidence of transmission from farms to wild salmon.”

Bass’s study assessed dozens of pathogens in thousands of Chinook and coho salmon sampled over a decade along the B.C. coast.

“These two publications help to clarify the disease risks that multiple species of Pacific salmon face,” says Dr. Andrew Bateman, manager of PSF’s Salmon Health program. “As many wild salmon populations in B.C. have experienced substantial declines over the last three decades, our work suggests that precautionary steps to manage risks under human control — like salmon farms — could play an important role in ensuring a bright future for wild salmon.  At the end of the day, this research further supports PSF’s stated policy position: from the perspective of wild salmon, open-net salmon farms should be transitioned out of the ocean.”

Dr. Bass’s research was funded by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Genome BC, and DFO. It was published May 19, 2022 in FACETS.


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(photo credit: Amy Romer)