Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

May 20, 2016 13:34 ET

Potential Diagnosis of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation in Atlantic Salmon at a B.C. Fish Farm

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - May 20, 2016) - Applying newly introduced and integrated technologies, a team of international researchers, led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO's) Dr. Kristi Miller, has diagnosed a potential Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon samples collected from a B.C. aquaculture facility in 2013-2014. This research was undertaken as part of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI), a collaboration between DFO, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome British Columbia to better understand the distribution of microbes and diseases in wild and cultured (hatchery and aquaculture) salmon in B.C.

HSMI is a disease that affects fish; there is no risk to human health. In Norway, it can be a significant production challenge to an affected farm and can be associated with generally low mortality on farms, generally between 0 to 20%. To date, HSMI has not been diagnosed in wild Pacific salmon and has only been observed in farmed Atlantic salmon. DFO will continue to work collaboratively with the SSHI and the aquaculture industry to learn more about this disease and its potential impact on salmon in B.C.

Quick Facts

  • These findings are presently limited to a single farm. DFO is now taking steps to better understand what these findings mean and to map a way forward.
  • HSMI is found in farmed Atlantic salmon and was originally reported in Norway in the late 1990s. The specific causes of HSMI have not been established.
  • HSMI is not a condition that causes high mortality in fish and is not considered a "reportable disease" by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or the World Organisation for Animal Health.
  • A relationship between Piscine Reo-Virus (PRV) and HSMI is being investigated but any role of PRV in the development of HSMI remains unclear.
  • Recent testing of archived samples has revealed that PRV has been present in salmonids on the Pacific coast of North America since at least 1988.
  • The Department has supported research that has examined the role of PRV as a causative agent of HSMI or other disease in wild sockeye and farmed Atlantic salmon. To date these laboratory studies have shown no evidence of HSMI or other disease.
  • The study examined 45 pathogens across more than 500 hearts from farmed salmon and no reportable pathogens were detected.


"Dr. Miller and her team's research helps to provide yet another piece in the complex puzzle of salmon health on the Pacific coast. These findings are important for fish health and the scientific community because they help us to better understand certain conditions that are affecting fish."

Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

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Strategic Salmon Health Intiative


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Strategic Salmon Health Intiative

The Government of Canada is committed to the protection of Canada's wild salmon stocks. To do so, and in line with the Cohen Commission recommendations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is collaborating with the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome BC on a multi-year Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI). This initiative is an eight year, four-phase project that merges genomics and fish health technologies to map microbes in British Columbia (BC) salmon. In addition, it is intended to better understand the microbes' possible origins and potential mechanisms of interactions with wild and cultured salmon.

The project's four phases are:

  1. Establish a large-scale sampling program for wild, hatchery and aquaculture salmon. About 30,000 salmon samples were collected (2012-2013). This Phase did not conduct analysis on samples.

  2. a) Develop and test a new application of the genomic technology, based on the Fluidigm® BioMark™ quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) platform (2013), b) Test the salmon samples to determine which of the approximately 45 microbes associated with diseases are carried by wild and farmed salmon (2016-2019);

  3. Focus on microbes identified in 2b), with an emphasis on those not well researched in BC, and assess potential disease transmission to wild salmon (2018-2020); and

  4. Report on research to managing agencies on the usefulness of methods developed and the application of outcomes to future monitoring (2020).

The initiative is currently in phase 2B.

DFO has funded (in kind) 64 per cent of the project to date, while Genome BC has funded 23 per cent and the Pacific Salmon Foundation about 14 per cent. Funding to date represents a total investment of $9 million.

Contact Information

  • Michelle Rainer
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Stephen Bruyneel
    Pacific Salmon Foundation