Deadly Virus Makes First Appearance in Washington Salmon Farm

May 30, 2012

A deadly virus that prompted salmon farmers in British Columbia to kill 560,000 fish has shown up for the first time in Washington. Ashley Ahearn reports.

The Orchard Rocks salmon farm on Bainbridge Island is killing off its stock after fish were diagnosed with the IHN virus. Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis virus occurs naturally in wild salmon and does not cause massive die-offs, but farmed Atlantic salmon are very vulnerable to the disease.

The infected fish are safe for people to eat, so the farm is butchering and selling the ones that are market-size. Icicle Seafoods - the company that owns the farm - says the nets will be sanitized and the area will be left fallow for 3 months.

Scientists believe that when fish are kept in confined conditions viruses can mutate and become more virulent. That has wild fish advocates raising concerns about possible risks to the juvenile salmon that are migrating out of Washington rivers right now.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio