ecoglobe [yinyang] news (14 November 1999)

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Shops in salmon boycott over virus
By Rob Edwards

Leading supermarkets have banned salmon suspected of harbouring an infectious virus which is spreading through fish stocks, despite government assurances that it is not dangerous to humans.

Marks & Spencer, Safeway, Sainsbury's and others are refusing to sell salmon from 35 farms suspected or confirmed as having the disease Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA).

"Everyone will automatically think of BSE," says Sue Sadler, a spokesperson for Marks & Spencer. "This is just not something we are prepared to risk on our customers."

The boycott is a mortal blow for the troubled Scottish fish farming industry which is already reeling from discovering on Thursday that ISA was still spreading. The Scottish Executive, which had previously thought that it had the disease under control, said that it was now suspected on six new farms in regions where it had not occurred before.

Worse, officials revealed that for the first time the virus that causes ISA had been detected in five different species of wild fish from Shetland to the Tweed, including salmon, trout and eels. There was also unprecedented evidence of the virus in freshwater species.

Although ministers insist that they are still trying to eradicate the disease, government scientists privately admit there is little hope of doing so, given the widespread presence of the virus in the wild. ISA is now officially suspected at 24 fish farms and confirmed at a further 11 all along the north west coast, Orkney and Shetland.

"The fact that all the major supermarkets have refused to sell ISA infected salmon on precautionary grounds highlights the significance of food safety issues in fish farming," says Dr Richard Dixon, Head of Research at Friends of the Earth Scotland.

"It also raises interesting questions about how the supermarkets will now deal with the ISA virus in wild fish. If they adopt the same precautionary ban in wild fish, this would place other fishery products in jeopardy." John Home Robertson, the Scottish fisheries minister, insisted on Thursday that ISA "has no implications for human health".

Yet the Sunday Herald can reveal that the Scottish Executive has failed to implement a recommendation from its own advisers to check fish farmers for signs of the disease.

Last September the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food suggested that farmers should be tested for ISA antibodies to see if they had been affected by the disease.

But an executive spokeswoman said on Friday that after consulting more experts it managed to persuade the committee that the tests were unnecessary as the risk of transmission to humans was only a "remote possibility".

Other government advisors, however, have been more cautious. The World Health Organisation, for example, stated that "the gaps in knowledge hinder the process of risk assessment and the application of appropriate risk management strategies with respect to food safety''.

ISA was first discovered in Scotland in May last year at a salmon farm run by a Norwegian firm, Hydro Seafood, on Loch Nevis near Mallaig. Virtually all of the subsequent outbreaks have been traced back to this farm. Scottish Executive investigators suspect that the disease was imported on inadequately disinfected equipment from Norway, though this is difficult to prove.

ISA, which attacks the lining of blood cells making salmon bleed internally, has caused epidemics on fish farms in Norway since 1984 and in Canada since 1996. The only other evidence of the virus in the wild came from salmon tested in New Brunswick, Canada, last month.

The disease is highly contagious and can be spread by blood, mucus and sea lice in the water. It has already forced fish farming companies to destroy more than four million salmon, lose L37 million and cut 180 jobs. The Scottish Salmon Growers Association, which is soon to disband, is calling for the government to compensate fish farmers.

Copyright 1999 Scottish Media Newspapers Limited The Sunday Herald November 7, 1999 Pg. 5
LOAD-DATE: November 9, 1999

[We received this contribution from biotech_activists@iatp.org Sun Nov 14 00:39:58 1999, posted by mritchie@iatp.org
**SeaWeb Aquaculture Clearinghouse** Bill Mott Project Director 102 Waterman Street, Suite 16 Providence, Rhode Island 02906 phone: 401/272-8822 fax: 401/272-8877 bmott@seaweb http://www.seaweb.org/campaigns/sac http://www.theoceanproject.org ]

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