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New viruses discovered in declining B.C. salmon populations

Last Updated Sep 7, 2019 at 7:32 pm PDT

Wild salmon are shown in this undated handout image. Conservationists say not a single wild Atlantic salmon was detected in a New Brunswick river waterway, raising alarms over the fate of the troubled species. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Atlantic Salmon Federation-Tom Moffatt
Summary

Researchers have found a trio of new viruses in pacific salmon, which haven't been seen in these fish before

The researchers examined more than 6,000 salmon along B.C.'s coast.

These viruses pose no risk to people

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Scientists have made a new discovery they hope will provide more insight into declining salmon populations in our province.

Researchers have found a trio of new viruses in pacific salmon, which haven’t been seen in these fish before.

“We found the new viruses widely distributed in dead and dying farmed salmon and in wild salmon,” says UBC professor Curtis Suttle. “It emphasizes the potential role that viral disease may play in the population dynamics of wild fish stocks, and the threat that these viruses may pose to aquaculture.”

The research doesn’t make a direct connection between these viruses and the decline seen in chinook and sockeye populations in the province over the past 30 years.

But Suttle says it reveals the need to learn more about a possible link.

“We really want to understand, not only these viruses, but other viruses too. So it’s kind of a little window in the world, so we are very interested in these viruses,” he says. “We don’t know the impact that they’re having on say, survival of the wild salmon populations, but it’s certainly something we need to know when we are considering aquaculture and other industrial applications as well.”

Suttle says the viruses also present a potential risk to salmon farming that are circulating in the wild.

The researchers examined more than 6,000 salmon along B.C.’s coast.

These viruses pose no risk to people.