In mid-October, Canadian officials announced the shocking new discovery of a deadly virus that had infected sockeye salmon in British Columbia and was a threat to salmon all over the Pacific Northwest. Turns out, however, that the discovery was neither shocking nor new.
In fact, Canadian officials have known about the virus for nearly a decade, ever since it was first found in 2002. They just didn't want to tell anyone.
The Seattle Times' Craig Welch reports that a Canadian researcher tested for and found the virus in more than 100 fish from Vancouver Island to Alaska back then.
Canadian officials never told the public or scientists in the United States about those tests -- not even after evidence of the virus discovered in October was treated as an international emergency, according to documents and emails obtained by The Seattle Times.
The researcher's work surfaced only this week after she sought and was denied permission by a Canadian official to try to have her old data published in a scientific journal.
The Canadian government has a huge inherent interest in making sure that nothing gets in the way of its $5-billion-per-year aquaculture industry--something a reported outbreak of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) would most certainly accomplish.
Dr. Molly Kibenge
So when this Canadian scientist--Dr. Molly Kibenge (who's actually the wife of Dr. Fred Kibenge, the man who discovered the latest ISA infections in October)--first found the virus, she tried to get her results published, but the government oversight agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, disputed her results and the data went nowhere.
Skip to today and U.S. and Canadian officials all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond are in Defcon-5 mode over the threat of ISA, a virus that has decimated fisheries in Norway, Scotland and Chile. Multiple scientists are outraged and say that Kibenge's data should have been thoroughly examined and publicized 10 years ago.
As it happens the Canuks are still refusing to publish the data.
They are, however, finding it harder to pretend it doesn't exist anymore.