Cooke’s salmon were healthy, became sick after escape: report

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Lab tests of the salmon that escaped from Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s collapsed Cypress Island fish farm in Puget Sound last August have all contracted the PRV virus from local fish, an environmental group has inadvertently discovered.

K5 News reported that the Wild Fish Conservancy had sent tissue samples from 19 retrieved Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean waterway to a lab at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, where they all tested positive for the virus. The disease can cause heart, muscle and skeletal problems affecting the fish’s ability to survive.

While the Green group declared victory, saying it proved the farmed fish were all diseased, K5 reported that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed, instead, that the fish in the pens were all healthy at the time of the array’s collapse. A WDFW report of two weeks ago said that of15 Atlantics tested shortly after their escape were healthy.

Read State fines Cooke, promises word on future of aquaculture

“No endemic, bacterial, viral, or parasitic pathogens were detected in the group of fish,” their report and the news site reported, adding that fish became susceptible to bacterial infection in the wild after going without food for long periods.

Officials say about 260,000 non-native salmon were released into the Salish Sea in August after a net pen failed at Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island fish farm. Last week, State lawmakers voted for a bill to outlaw net-pens off Washington’s coast by deciding it would not allow lease renewals at existing farms.