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WDFW says Wild Fish Conservancy’s claim of dangerous viruses in escaped salmon is way off-base

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OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to claims by a local environmental group that escaped Atlantic salmon were infected with a highly contagious virus, saying not a single study supports evidence that the virus is transferable or dangerous to native fish.

Officials said the virus is already present in native fish, and occurs naturally in Pacific salmon.

“PRV occurs naturally and was first confirmed in the Salish Sea from fish samples taken in 1987,” wildlife officials said.

The Wild Fish Conservancy claim the virus could be transferred from penned salmon to native fish; potentially leading to a disease (HSMI) that could cripple wild fish. The Conservancy claim the strain of Norwegian virus had been shown in 100 percent of escaped Atlantic salmon, and that the strain was transferable.

The organization said it had received test results this week from an independent lab at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Hundreds of thousand of salmon were released into Puget Sound when a net pen owned by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific collapsed in the summer of 2017.

The state organization said the Conservancy “provides no data or scientific research” to support it’s claims of transmission or danger.

“At present (the virus) is not recognized as a pathogen of concern by the World Organization for Animal Health,” department officials said.