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Peer Review concludes Piscine Orthoreovirus transfer from Atlantic salmon farms poses minimal risk to wild Fraser River sockeye

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By Milthon Lujan

Vancouver, Canada.- From January 28-30, 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) conducted a meeting to review scientific evidence and to provide science advice on the risk to Fraser River sockeye salmon due to Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) transfer from Atlantic salmon farms located in the Discovery Islands area, British Columbia. This peer-review process is a recommendation of the Cohen Commission.

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The scientific experts who peer reviewed the data and risk assessment reached a consensus that the risk to Fraser River sockeye salmon due to PRV is minimal. This is consistent with the conclusion of a 2015 CSAS report.

The assessment was conducted based on the latest Canadian and international data including results from the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative.

As there are still some knowledge gaps in our understanding of this virus, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to be vigilant, and support further scientific research on PRV. It will also rely on domestic and international experts in this field, and the peer review process, to obtain the best science available to inform evidence-based decisions on the management and regulation of Canada’s aquaculture sector.

The PRV risk assessment represents the sixth in the series of ten risk assessments on pathogen transfer from farmed Atlantic salmon to Fraser River sockeye salmon. The assessment follows the standard CSAS process, which is a robust and transparent peer-review procedure that ensures meeting conclusions and final scientific advice are reached by expert consensus.

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A full report on the peer-review findings will be published on the CSAS website in late spring 2019 after final review by the peer-review participants.

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Quick facts

The peer review meeting was held in Vancouver from January 28-30, 2019

The 33 peer-review participants, of which 15 were Fisheries and Oceans Canada employees, also included domestic and international experts including from environmental non-governmental organizations, Indigenous groups, academia, the aquaculture industry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture.

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This risk assessment supports Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s role in the management of aquaculture in British Columbia and aligns with recommendations in the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, including recommendations 18 and 19 on risks to wild fish populations related to pathogen transfers from fish farms and other fish health-related recommendations.

This is consistent with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s statement of additional measures announced in 2018 to ensure the environmental sustainability of finfish aquaculture, including a new study on the alternative technologies for aquaculture, moving towards an area-based approach to aquaculture management, developing a framework for aquaculture risk management based on the precautionary approach and creating a single comprehensive set of regulations: the General Aquaculture Regulations.

Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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