The Pacific Salmon Foundation is taking the unusual step of posting a scientific paper in advance of publication within a scientific journal.  The paper by Di Cicco et al. (2018) was accepted for publication in FACETS on the 23 April 2018 and is referenced as:  DOI 10.1139/facets-2018-0008.  This article will be released in the journal in May or June, 2018 editions but the date is uncertain.  The paper is an outcome of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative lead by Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders (DFO Science) and Dr. Brian Riddell (PSF) but neither person will be available for comment from mid-May through early June, 2018.  To respect that media or others may wish comment from these leaders, PSF and the editor of FACETS have decided that posting the article in advance is an appropriate means to address this.



News Release
FOR RELEASE May 7th, 2018 

“Previously Only Shown to Impact Farmed Atlantic Salmon”

A new scientific study has shown for the first time that the Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) virus, known to cause disease in farmed Atlantic salmon, may cause a pathologically different, but related disease in Chinook salmon in British Columbia. The study is part of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI) – a partnership of the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Genome BC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“The results of this study are significant because they show– for the first time – strong evidence that the same strain of PRV that causes heart and skeletal muscle inflammation disease (HSMI) in Atlantic salmon is likely to cause disease in at least one species of Pacific salmon,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, president and CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. “These findings add to the existing concerns about the potential impacts of open net salmon farming on wild Pacific salmon off the coast of BC”.

PRV has previously been shown to be the causative agent of HSMI in Atlantic salmon. HSMI is a significant cause of mortality and economic loss in the salmon-farming industry and has to date been reported in Norway, UK/Scotland, Chile and British Columbia.  Given the high prevalence of PRV in net pen salmon (estimated between 65-75% overall, with approximately 25% of salmon carrying PRV presenting with high viral loads), debate has arisen on whether PRV poses a risk to migratory salmon, especially in British Columbia where commercially important wild Pacific salmon are in decline. Divergent strains of PRV have been associated with jaundice-related diseases in Pacific salmon species (Coho, Rainbow trout) in Japan, Norway and Chile, but until now the PRV-1 strain that causes HSMI, and the only strain detected in BC, has not been shown directly affiliated with disease in Pacific salmon.

“Our study used novel molecular tools to show that PRV-1 was intimately involved in the development of jaundice/anemia in Chinook salmon,” said Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and lead scientist in the SSHI. “The study also reveals a difference in PRV-1 sensitivity between species that could easily explain why the virus causes inflammation in Atlantic salmon and cell death in Chinook salmon. Based on the results, we concluded that Chinook salmon may be at more than a minimal risk of disease from exposure to PRV occurring on salmon farms.”

“The findings in the most recent study add to the concerns of scientists, environmental groups and the BC salmon community that PRV is having negative effects on wild Pacific salmon in our coastal waters,” concluded Riddell. “I certainly hope that industry and regulators consider these findings seriously as they look at the future of the aquaculture industry in BC.”

A copy of the new study has been posted on the PSF website at www.psf.ca.


Stephen Bruyneel, Pacific Salmon Foundation, 604 842 1971

About the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative
The Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI) was initiated in 2013 for a variety of reasons, the primary one being the variable survival of juvenile salmon during their early ocean migration. Infectious disease may contribute to salmon mortality patterns, but not enough was known about the distribution or impact of disease agents in wild Pacific salmon populations in their natural habitats.  Most of the current knowledge about any potential for effect has been derived from observations of cultured fish (both in enhancement hatcheries and open-net pen aquaculture). To address this issue, the SSHI undertook a four-phased program to discover the infectious agents (viruses, bacteria and microparasites) and diseases present in BC salmon (wild and cultured) that may reduce the productivity of our Pacific salmon.  The SSHI is also providing objective scientific data to understand the risks of disease transmission associated with open-net pen rearing of salmon and salmon enhancement. 

About the Pacific Salmon Foundation:
The Pacific Salmon Foundation was created in 1987 as an independent, non-governmental, charitable organization to protect, conserve and rebuild Pacific Salmon populations in British Columbia and the Yukon. The Foundation’s mission is to be the trusted voice for conservation and restoration of wild Pacific salmon and their ecosystems and works to bring salmon back stream by stream through the strategic use of resources and local communities. www.psf.ca


Media Contacts

For media inquiries contact:
Pacific Salmon Foundation 
Elayne Sun 
Manager, Communications and Marketing