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

Updated: Molotov cocktails thrown at Revelstoke home in arson attempt

The flames were extinguished before they spread. Two men have been arrested.

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

Opening night lineup for online Roots & Blues festival released

The first night of the festival on Aug. 14 will be stacked with favourites from previous years

Revelstoke’s forestry museum launches podcasts and new website

One of their summer students is working remotely

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government

‘We’re glad you’re here’: Positive note left on Alberta car at Kelowna beach

‘Our hearts are full, and this restores all sorts of faith in humanity’

Kelowna RCMP search for missing teen

Reina Hodgins was last seen Aug. 9, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. at her residence

Who can dismiss the Governor General? A look at protocols and possibilities

The Governor General is appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the prime minister

Second phase of NHL draft lottery set for Monday

Each club eliminated from qualifying round has a 12.5 per cent shot at the No. 1 pick

University of Victoria, rowing coach sued over alleged ‘fat shaming’ and verbal abuse

Lawsuit says Barney Williams subjected coxswain Lily Copeland to offensive and belittling language

1 year since a B.C. teen died in a skate park, his family still waiting for charges

Carson Crimeni’s final moments were broadcast on social media

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Local state of emergency declared near Okanagan home

Slope failure cited as City of Penticton issues notice at home in 600 block of Heather Road

Most Read