Cantwell, Murkowski, Begich Call for Investigation of Salmon Virus Threat

Bipartisan Amendment Directs Task Force to Monitor and Respond to Spread of Salmon-Killing Virus Cantwell: ‘We need to act now to protect the Pacific Northwest’s coastal economy and jobs’

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced a bipartisan amendment that calls for an investigation of the spread of the Canadian salmon virus that poses a threat to Pacific Northwest wild salmon and the coastal economies that rely on them.

The amendment, introduced last night to the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 2112), calls on the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to evaluate the risk the virus could have on salmon off West Coast waters and Alaskan waters, and to develop a plan to address this emerging threat. The virus was recently detected in salmon in British Columbia, Canada.

“We need to act now to protect the Pacific Northwest’s coastal economy and jobs,” said Senator Cantwell. “There’s no threat to human health, but infectious salmon anemia could pose a serious threat to Pacific Northwest wild salmon and the thousands of Washington state jobs that rely on them. We have to get a coordinated game plan in place to protect our salmon and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

“We need the best information on this troubling issue, and we need it as soon as possible,” said Senator Murkowski. “We also must educate consumers, when it comes to letting them know that wild salmon is still safe and one of Alaska’s most delicious natural resources – but we also must assure the quality of the nation’s fisheries, as well as the job security of the thousands of Alaskans who work in them.”

“This virus is a potentially serious threat to wild salmon stocks and, as the world’s premier producer of wild salmon, the reports from BC must be looked into. These findings need to be investigated and, if confirmed, we need to know the risks which is the intent of our amendment,” said Senator Begich. “Consumers should also know this is not a food safety or human health issue and they can continue to enjoy wild salmon knowing it is safe, healthy and good to eat.”

The task force works cross-jurisdictionally with several agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The task force brings together federal, state, local, and tribal officials to develop plans to address and provide for efficient, safe and effective national and international commerce of aquatic animals as well as the protection of cultured and wild aquatic animals from foreign pests and diseases.

Specifically, the amendment introduced today requires a report be delivered to Congress which outlines surveillance, susceptibility of species and populations, potential vectors, gaps in knowledge, and recommendations for management. The amendment does not have a cost but rather streamlines existing research goals and surveillance efforts, highlights research needs and forges important collaborations necessary to assess this potentially devastating risk to wild salmon and the coastal economies which rely on them.