Senate Passes Cantwell Amendment to Investigate and Respond to Deadly Salmon Virus

Cantwell: ‘We need to take immediate action to protect jobs by quickly developing a salmon virus action plan’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan amendment authored by U.S. 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 amendment was included in the minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2112), which passed the Senate today by a vote of 69 to 30. The next step will be a conference of the House and Senate.

The virus, which was recently found for the first time in Pacific wild salmon, may pose a threat to the Pacific Northwest salmon fishing industry and the coastal economies that rely on it. The virus does not pose a threat to human health.

The bipartisan amendment was backed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

“Pacific Northwest wild salmon support tens of thousands of local jobs. We need to take immediate action to protect these jobs by quickly developing a salmon virus action plan,” said Cantwell. “This amendment 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.”

The amendment, introduced October 19th to the minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) and approved October 21st, 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, and to develop a plan to address this emerging threat. 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.

The task force works cross-jurisdictionally with several agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the United States Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The task force brings together federal, state, local, and tribal government. Senator Cantwell’s amendment requires the Task Force to prioritize Infectious Salmon Anemia research, surveillance and response. In addition, Senator Cantwell is calling on the Task Force to make recommendations for management and evaluate mitigation techniques which can be used to tools they need to respond to infectious salmon anemia if they need to.

Specifically, Cantwell’s amendment requires a report be delivered 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.