SOS !!! Dead fish swimming' virus may be hurting Pacific salmon

Dead fish swimming' virus may be hurting Pacific salmon

Margaret Munro
January 13, 2011 
Vancouver Sun

Volcanic eruptions, giant squid and sea lice have all been invoked to explain the wild swings in one of Canada's most valuable fisheries.

Now scientists have raised the spectre of a mysterious virus killing huge numbers of Pacific salmon before they reach their spawning grounds.

"The mortality-related signature reflects a viral infection," a team of federal and university researchers reported Thursday in a study into the collapse of British Columbia's famed Fraser River sockeye runs.

The compromised salmon that appeared to have a viral infection at sea — a phenomenon co-author Scott Hinch at the University of British Columbia describes as "dead fish swimming" — were 13.5 times more likely to die before spawning than healthy fish.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, does not identify a microbial culprit, but suggests the virus may be associated with leukemia and lymphoma.

"There is no doubt there is some form of pathogen involved," Hinch said.

But he says it's not yet known just what it is, when and where the fish are being infected or how much other factors, such as the remarkable rise in river water temperatures seen in the past decade, are contributing to mortality.

Some observers speculate the possible virus may be linked to fish farms, but others say it could be a natural, but until now unrecognized, threat to Pacific salmon. 

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. Also in: Times ColonistNanaimo Daily NewsAlberni Valley TimesCalgary Herald; Edmonton Journal; adapted in Vancouver Sun; January 14, 2011; as "Virus may have killed Fraser River salmon, study says - Possibly associated with leukemia, lymphoma"

Read related stories:

  • Epoch Times; January 20, 2011; "BC sockye salmon threatened by mystery virus"
  • The Tyee; January 15, 2011; "Scientists suspect virus may be cause of salmon deaths"
  • Globe and Mail; January 14, 2011; "Mysterious infection is killing B.C. salmon"
  • Time; January 14, 2011; "What is killing the Pacific salmon"
  • Anchorage Daily News, January 12, 2011;"Study tracks salmon coping with warming river"
  • CBC; January 13, 2011;"B.C. salmon deaths may be linked to virus"
  • The Canadian Press; January 13, 2011; "Genetic study shows new way to track salmon coping with global warming in British Columbia". Also in MetroNewsThe