Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) has been discovered at an Atlantic salmon farm in BC for the first time, a finding that has raised alarm bells for wild fisheries and fish farming interests alike.
News of the discovery was published in the journal PLOS ONE, by Stratgeic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI) investigators, and the researchers also pointed out the correlation between HSMI and the highly contagious piscine reo-virus (PRV), suggesting the two might be linked, which is a concern to wild salmon interests too.
According to the Times Colonist, Emiliano Di Cicco, co-author of the study, said: “[HSMI] is the No 3 cause of mortality and economic loss in the salmon-farming industry. But the other issue we need to care about is the same virus [PRV] could infect Pacific salmon in BC.”
The publication could therefore have negative consequences for BC’s salmon farming industry, global sales of which reached a record $745 million CAD in 2016.
However, Jeremy Dunn, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA), issued a press release in response to the report, stating: “The paper published by SSHI investigators regarding the diagnosis of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in fish from one Atlantic salmon farm in BC is important, and there is further research ongoing to better understand how HSMI develops and its root cause. The single farm identified in the study had an overall healthy population of salmon, with a low mortality, which showed normal behavior and growth rates. As confirmed in this study, the specific cause of HSMI has not been established, however it is associated with the Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) in BC. Although the specific cause of HSMI has not been established, the population of fish studied entered the marine environment free of PRV.”
Nevertheless, he added that – overall – the lack of other pathogens detected in the study was encouraging for the industry.
“The SSHI investigators utilized the latest diagnostic technology to test 500 heart samples from four Atlantic salmon farms in BC. for 45 microbes with pathogenic potential and did not find any diseases considered of significant importance to the World Organization for Animal Health including Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA), Infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN), Infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) and Salmon Alphavirus (SAV). Three of the four farms studied did not have diagnosed cases of HSMI,” he observed.
And he added that the BCSFA were playing an active role in investigating the health of both wild and farmed salmonids off the coast of BC.
“The BC Salmon Farmers Association joined as a partner of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative in 2013 because our members believe that more investigation into the health of wild and farm-raised salmon is imperative,” he pointed out.