Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISAv) is a naturally occurring virus in the environment. ISA is present in a variety of wild fish in many parts of the world, including eastern Canada and the United States. These include: Atlantic herring, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon and brown trout.
Although unusual to find ISA in a land-based hatchery, evidence of ISA has been recorded in the wild fishery on the east coast for over 100 years. While ISA is harmful to salmon, it poses no risk to human health.
The industry has worked closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on standard operating procedures that guide all aspects of ISA containment and control. Fish health monitoring is conducted regularly in all land-based fish rearing systems by regulators, veterinarians and staff to make sure the fish remain healthy and to spot fish health concerns early. Hatchery or hatchery practices do not create the problem – but staff have been trained to detect symptoms and implement appropriate rigorous testing and monitoring as quickly as possible, as was the case in Nova Scotia. It was the highly trained staff at the facilities in question that reported the concern to provincial veterinarians and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. When ISA is detected, salmon farmers alert federal and provincial regulators and immediately initiate strict biosecurity and containment measures to protect the health of the fish and the environment.
Since 1996 when ISA was first identified in New Brunswick, salmon farmers have worked with scientists, veterinarians and government to ensure monitoring programs are in place, along with management and containment strategies to stop the virus from spreading.
The lessons learned from every ISA incident are used throughout the region to continuously improve ISA management. The fact that we have not seen wide-spread incidents of ISA show that the stringent protocols for fish health surveillance and testing our industry has in place are working.
Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association