Fish farmer culls 800,000 juvenile salmon in Washington

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Cooke Aquaculture Pacific was required to cull its stock as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife considers virus a risk to Pacific salmon.

The fish farmer has culled 800 thousand juvenile Atlantic salmon after they tested positive for an “exotic” strain of PRV, according to the Seattle Times.

Cooke’s hatchery near Rochester tested positive for a form of the fish PRV piscine orthoreovirus virus which is the same as the one that occurs at the Iceland hatchery from which the salmon farmer receives its eggs. The Icelandic form of PRV is not known to occur in the eastern Pacific Ocean or Puget Sound, so the WDFW (The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) classifies it as “exotic.”

Amy Windrope, Region 4 director for WDFW, told the publication that two of Cooke’s last three batches of Atlantic salmon in the past year have tested positive for PRV. The third came back negative.

The fish were in quarantine prior to the cull.

“They are complying with the terms of the permit, and we are protecting Puget Sound from this exotic strain,” Windrope added.

The WDFW is currently processing a permit from Cooke to move about 500,000 rainbow-trout eggs to its Rochester hatchery by early January, the publication reported. The eggs will be supplied by Troutlodge, a local Washington seller.

Ken Warheit, director of fish health for the state of Washington, said the state has not tested Cooke’s fully grown fish pens for PRV because the state is updating its rules but it may happen in spring 2019.

Washington state Legislature enacted a gradual phaseout ban of net-pen farming of Atlantic salmon in Washington waters as leases expire by 2025.