Pacific Salmon Foundation researcher dissects tissue samples from overwintering Chinook to detect for the presence of infectious agents in Quatsino Sound, B.C., March 2019. (Photo by Amy Romer)

New viruses discovered in endangered wild Pacific salmon populations in B.C.

Study looked at 6,000 salmon along the B.C.’s coastline, including in the wild and in fish farms

A series of new fish-infecting viruses have been discovered in endangered Chinook and Sockeye salmon populations.

Among three new viruses discovered is a virus that has never been known to infect fish before, according to a news release from UBC researchers released on Wednesday.

While the impact of the viruses on salmon health isn’t yet known, all three are related to viruses that cause serious disease in other species, the study suggests.

Researchers from UBC’s earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences department, along with Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists, used DNA sequencing to screen for viruses within more than 6,000 salmon from along the B.C. coast, including wild, hatchery and aquaculture fish.

UBC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers used DNA sequencing followed by tests specific to each virus to screen more than 6,000 salmon from along the B.C. coast, including wild, hatchery and aquaculture fish.

READ MORE: DFO to test for harmful virus at B.C. fish farms

UBC’s department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences researcher Gideon Mordecai says he was surprised by this latest discovery, which was published this week in the research journal eLife.

“We were surprised to find viruses which had never before been shown to infect fish,” said Mordecai.

“Although there’s no risk to humans, one of the viruses is evolutionary related to to respiratory coronaviruses, and is localized to the gills. That suggests it has a similar infection strategy to its distant relatives that infect mammals.”

One new virus was detected in 15 per cent of all hatchery Chinook tested, which is more commonly found in hatchery salmon.

Another new virus was detected in 20 per cent of Chinook fish found in B.C. fish farms, but was only found in adult or sub-adult salmon. Usually, these viruses are more likely found in cultured fish than in the wild.

The research findings come as the population of Chinook and sockeye salmon continue to decline – a trend scientists have been documenting for 30 years.

While much of the focus has been on the impact of piscine orthoreovirus, the new findings highlight how little is known about other viruses endemic to salmon populations.

UBC virologist Curtis Suttle said the findings emphasize the potential role that viral disease can play in wild fish stocks.

“It’s essential that we determine whether these viruses are important factors in the decline of Chinook and sockeye salmon stocks,” Suttle said.

“The research highlights the need for robust surveillance to improve our understanding of how viruses might impact the health of wild Pacific salmon populations.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Make your house a home at Nanaimo spring home expo

Building renovation and decor show taking place at Beban Park till Feb. 23

‘Frankenstein’ to be adapted as silent film made in real time at Port Theatre

Production merges stories of author Mary Shelley and character Victor Frankenstein

City of Nanaimo mulling sponsorship policy

Finance and audit committee recommends approving plan to create policy around facility naming rights

Nanaimo Art Gallery requesting $200,000 to upgrade its downtown space

Councillors supportive of NAG’s plans, but no decision made on increasing financial assistance

No credible threat found during high school lockdown, say Nanaimo RCMP

Police won’t say if lockdown at Dover Bay Secondary was related to one at the school last fall

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Council approves two retail cannabis stores for Ladysmith

Their applications are now in the hands of the provincial government

Court awards Nanaimo woman $300,000 after crash exacerbates her fibromyalgia

Judgment follows 2015 motor vehicle accident on Turner Road

Affordable seniors housing complex pitched for Nanaimo’s hospital district

Seafield Crescent complex would include two five-storey buildings

Exclusive: Pamela Anderson talks plans for waterfront Ladysmith property after 12-day marriage

Anderson says she can pay her own bills. Peters denies making comments suggesting she can’t

Suspect steals seaplane, crashes into another in Vancouver habour

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Most Read