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Science Response 2015/037

Assessment of the Occurrence, Distribution and Potential Impacts of Piscine Reovirus on the West Coast of North America


Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for the regulation and management of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia.  These responsibilities include licensing the transfer of farmed fish from hatcheries to marine net pens.  Transfers of fish into natural waters in British Columbia falls under Section 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulation (F(G)R).  Under this regulation, transfers are assessed for potential risks with respect to genetic, ecological and disease impacts into the receiving waters.  The British Columbia Introductions and Transfers Committee (ITC) is responsible for reviewing applications and upon recommendation for approval, a licence can be issued.

Transferring fish from land-based freshwater hatcheries to net cages in the marine environment is an integral part of the salmon farming (aquaculture) process.  Concerns have been raised regarding the presence of piscine reovirus (PRV) in farmed fish on the Pacific Coast, and the potential impacts to the health of wild salmonid populations arising from the transfer of hatchery reared fish that carry this virus to marine-based aquaculture facilities.

To support the assessment of applications to transfer fish from hatcheries to net pens, DFO Fisheries and Aquaculture Management has requested that Science Branch provide science advice regarding the potential impacts of transferring PRV infected fish to the marine environment, as part of salmon farming operations, including consideration of the development of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) or other diseases.  Given that advice is required within four weeks of Science having been asked to respond to this request, a CSAS Science Response will be developed to address the objectives outlined below.

The assessment, and advice arising from this Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) Regional Peer Review (RPR), will be used to inform the assessment and licensing of applications to transfer fish raised in aquaculture hatchery facilities to the marine environment.

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