Cantwell Salmon Virus Amendment Headed to President for Signature

Bipartisan Amendment Directs Task Force to Monitor and Respond to Spread of Potential Salmon-Killing Virus Cantwell: ‘A Major Step Forward to Protect Thousands of Washington Jobs That Rely on a Healthy Salmon Populations’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed legislation authored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that calls for an investigation and rapid response plan to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly salmon virus. The Cantwell salmon virus amendment passed both the Senate and House on Thursday as part of the minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2112).

The legislation, backed by all eight U.S. Senators from the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The virus, recently detected for the first time in Pacific wild salmon in Canada, may pose a threat to the Pacific Northwest salmon fishing industry and the coastal economies that rely on it. Cantwell has called, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Mark Begich (D-AK), for the U.S. government to test the Canadian samples to independently confirm the presence of the salmon virus.

“This is a major step forward to protect the thousands of Washington jobs that rely on healthy salmon,” said Cantwell. “This legislation will ensure that appropriate agencies prioritize detection, surveillance and response efforts. While infectious salmon anemia poses no threat to human health or seafood, we must stay ahead of the infection before it becomes a crisis.”

Previous outbreaks of ISA in Chile and Norway did significant damage to their fishing industries. The virus may pose a threat to the Pacific Northwest salmon fishing industry and the coastal economies that rely on it. Thousands of Washington state jobs depend on healthy, sustainable salmon populations. A 2010 Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife Study found that commercial fisheries, after processing and distributing their stocks, contributed $1.6 billion to the local economy.

The amendment, introduced October 19th to the pending appropriations bill (H.R. 2112), calls on the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to evaluate the risk the virus could have on wild salmon off West Coast and Alaskan waters. The legislation also calls on the Task Force to deliver a report to Congress within six months 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.

Cantwell spoke on the Senate floor about her amendment during the early morning hours of October 21st. Watch a video of her delivering her remarks here.