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Marine finfish and land-based fish health technical working group

Marine finfish and land-based fish health technical working group
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Executive summary

On June 4, 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the creation of an Indigenous and Multi-stakeholder Advisory Body (IMAB) and three technical working groups to develop recommendations related to aquaculture management in BC. Among these, the Marine Finfish and Land-based Fish Health Technical Working Group (FHTWG) was tasked to:

The intent of the reviews and recommendations was to strengthen the environmental performance of salmon aquaculture in BC and to improve fish health outcomes for aquaculture and wild fish in the Pacific Region.

The 12 members of the FHTWG (one resigned before the process was completed) had varied backgrounds, experiences and perspectives towards salmon farming, aquaculture fish health and the risk they both present to wild fish. The FHTWG met on ten occasions (in person meetings and/or teleconference calls) to deliberate and discuss the materials that were compiled and exchanged and to receive presentations on current and alternative approaches to fish-health management from DFO and non-DFO experts. Considerable discussion focussed on specific questions related to on-farm sea lice management, including sea lice conditions of licence, and issues related to Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV), on farm monitoring for Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) and Jaundice Syndrome, including case definitions and subclinical signs (i.e., not severe enough to present definite or readily observable signs) of these two diseases. Further, a review of DFO’s current case definitions of HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome was conducted by 17 veterinarians and veterinary pathologists, with across Canada and international representation, who attended a separate, two-day workshop (held in January 2020). These veterinarians and veterinary pathologists were tasked with determining if the case definitions in use by DFO were robust and met best international standards/practices, including those of the regulatory frameworks of other salmon producing countries. (The workshop’s report is provided as Appendix 6.)

Generally, the engagement in discussion was strong and participation was broad across all FHTWG members. The scope of discussions on all three assigned tasks included numerous polarized views on both the interpretation of scientific data as well as the appropriate management responses. For the most part, the exchanges did little to alter members’ perspectives and as a consequence, reaching consensus on all issues was not possible. The membership of the FHTWG, and the role of DFO as the co-moderator and Secretariat of the process came under criticism by some members for the perceived potential bias that it might introduce to the process. At one of their last meetings, these participants suggested that, for future consultation/advisory processes, DFO consider more arms-length advice by external stakeholders. Other members expressed the view that DFO science and regulatory expertise is required for meaningful discussion and favoured structured approaches such as those employed by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat for the development of science advice to inform improvements to environmental performance of salmon aquaculture in BC.

Based on the reviews they conducted, the FHTWG did not seek to assign a relative rating or ranking to the environmental performance of salmon aquaculture in BC relative to other jurisdictions, but they concurred that there was scope for further improvements in data collection and public reporting, standards and management metrics, and corresponding management approaches to fish health to strengthen the environmental performance and improve fish health outcomes for aquaculture and wild fish in the Pacific Region. Thus, the FHTWG had consensus on the need for more robust science, data collection and data sharing to inform decision-making and regulation of the industry, and increase public transparency and trust. Members supported exploring a more adaptive and performance-based management of the industry with regards to fish health. Consensus existed for the need that regulations governing industry compliance be enforceable in a timely way and that penalties be commensurate with the nature of the non-compliance.

The FHTWG also reached majority agreement on the following specific recommendations for improvement:

Specific recommendations for actions DFO should undertake for its Pacific Marine Aquaculture Finfish Management Regime

Specific recommendations regarding the Conditions of Licence (COL) for on-farm sea lice management

Other recommendations related to improving sea lice knowledge and management

Specific recommendations for actions DFO should undertake for its on-farm fish health management of PRV, HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome

Other recommendations for actions DFO should undertake

Major points of disagreement among the FHTWG related to PRV in BC and its role in disease development, the extent to which subclinical signs of disease are present and a predictor of health outcomes, the role of environmental conditions in sea lice development and transmissivity between aquaculture and wild populations, and the extent to which poorly performing aquaculture fish provide insight into the health of the population or risk to wild salmon health. A section of this report is dedicated to these, and other, points of disagreement among the FHTWG. It includes the varying perspectives of FHTWG members on these topics and could serve as context for informing future research investments to improve the knowledge base and lower uncertainties associated with current scientific information on the environmental performance and health of aquaculture and wild fish in BC.

Given its broad scope and limited term, the FHTWG acknowledges that more work is required to fully deliver on its mandate. A number of members recommend that DFO support an ongoing forum for this purpose. Finally, the FHTWG appreciates the responsiveness of DFO to incorporating some of its recommendations in “real time” into the 2020 Conditions of Licence.

Disclaimer

The Fish Health Technical Working Group wish to acknowledge the contributions and expertise of the First Nations delegates who have participated in meetings, with the understanding that the contents and recommendations of this report are not endorsed by the BC First Nations Fisheries Council or any individual First Nations including the First Nations of whom the participants are members.

Introduction

On June 4, 2019, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson,Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO or the Department), announced that the Department would establish an Indigenous and Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body (IMAB). This group would be chaired by DFO’s Deputy Minister, Timothy Sargent, and be asked to provide recommendations to DFO for strengthening the environmental performance of aquaculture in British Columbia (BC). Three Technical Working Groups, each focused on a key aquaculture issue that had been identified for improvement and/or enhanced collaboration, were created to support the work of the IMAB. Both the IMAB and the Technical Working Groups were to be inclusive and comprised of representatives or delegates of the Province of BC, Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, and the aquaculture industry. DFO staff participated in a secretariat role and provided information to the group in an ex-officio capacity. The focus of each of the respective Technical Working Groups was:

All three Technical Working Groups were originally scheduled to complete their mandates by December 2019, but this date was subsequently extended to end of March 2020 to provide opportunity for more detailed deliberations and advice development. Final reports from each Technical working Group were submitted in May, 2020.

This report focusses on the recommendations and discussions of the Marine Finfish and Land-based Fish Health Technical Working Group (FHTWG). The FHTWG was comprised of two co-chairs, 12 initial members (one member resigned just before the process was completed), eight ex officio Government members from DFO and the CFIA, and three administrative support staff from DFO (Appendix 1). The Terms of Reference for the FHTWG, which were finalised and endorsed by its members at their first meeting on September 13, 2019, established their Guiding Principles, Objectives, Scope, Timeframe, Governance, and Responsibilities (Appendix 2). Information on additional meeting materials such as meeting agendas, minutes, background documents and selected publications can be found in Appendix 7.

Objectives

The objectives of the FHTWG were to:

Scope

The scope of the FHTWG included the health and welfare of cultured fish and any spillover effect (e.g., infection or disease from viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.) which cultured fish may have on the health of wild fish stocks. The FHTWG was tasked to:

Specific questions

In addition to the general objectives and scope of work outlined above, the FHTWG was also assigned specific technical questions including:

On-farm sea lice management

PRV-HSMI-Jaundice Syndrome

FHTWG meetings and activities

To deliver on its mandate, the FHTWG convened ten in-person and/or teleconference meetings. Members requested information and presentations from DFO and non-DFO experts and they compiled and exchanged materials to support their deliberations via email. As well, the FHTWG convened a 2-day workshop of 17 veterinarians and veterinary pathologists (held in January 2020) to review DFO’s current case definitions of two PRV-associated diseases (HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome) to ensure they were robust and met best international standards/practice, including those of the regulatory frameworks of other salmon producing countries. Prior to the completion of this final FHTWG report, an interim progress report was delivered to and the FHTWG sought direction from the IMAB members in February 2020.

Whereas general improvements to DFO’s current aquaculture and wild fish health management regimes were considered, most of the FHTWG deliberations focused on the management of specific pathogens and pests (i.e., addressing the technical questions with which they were tasked). Due to time constraints, there was limited opportunity to explore management actions that would improve health outcomes for aquaculture fish resulting from factors such as climate change or environmental degradation or health outcomes of wild fish from interactions with aquaculture fish at specific life history stages or in specific habitats.

The members of the FHTWG had varied backgrounds, experiences and perspectives towards fish health and the risk it presents to wild fish. Observers were also allowed to attend. Discussions at the meetings and through follow-up emails had broad engagement, and they were frequently broad-ranging and invariably challenging. The scope of discussions included numerous polarized views on both interpretation of scientific data and appropriate management recommendations. Specific details of a number of points of polarization and disagreement are included in this report and in associated documentation as context for future follow-up actions or discussions.

Accomplishments against the objectives, scope and specific questions

With respect to the Objectives and Scope outlined above, the FHTWG meetings provided participants with a forum to discuss actions underway in the DFO Pacific Region with respect to aquaculture fish health management, to share information that informed discussions, and to develop advice to DFO. Their deliberations were assisted by presentations that provided information on the current fish health management regimes that exist in both the Canadian Food Inspection AgencyFootnote 2 (CFIA) and the DFO Pacific RegionFootnote 3. In order to situate the current fish health management regimes into an international context, additional presentations and compilations of international approaches to the monitoring and management of specific fish health management issues were also considered (Appendices 3-4). Additionally, a presentation on alternative approaches to the management of aquaculture and wild fish health was considered (Appendix 5), but there was insufficient time within the mandate of the FHTWG to fully explore the potential advantages of such an approach or how it might practically be implemented in Canada’s Pacific region. Nonetheless, some members expressed interest in DFO piloting the application of a broader and holistic conceptual approach to aspects related to fish health and an aquatic animal health management framework. Inform consideration of the implementation of Area-based aquaculture management.

Collectively, the information and exchanges highlighted the complexities of aquaculture fish health management, they furthered understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the various participants and internal DFO processes, and led to identification of opportunities for enhanced collaboration among various stakeholder groups with the potential to strengthen health management outcomes.

Full consensus on the specific questions posed to the group was not achieved. Very broadly, members supported increased research and regulatory oversight/enforcement, as well as a more holistic approach to aquaculture management. Further areas of general consensus, as well as topics where consensus was not reached, are documented in the remainder of this report.

Review of the DFO Pacific marine aquaculture finfish management regime

The FHTWG reviewed the literature available on DFO’s website regarding aquaculture management, the description of its Fish Health Audit and Intelligence Program, the results of a 2017 audit conducted by AusVet, the 2018 Salmon Farming Report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Canada, and the progress that DFO has subsequently accomplished implementing audit recommendations. Consensus was only occasionally achieved due to the wide range of views and strongly divergent opinions, but the majority of the FHTWG members agreed on several specific actions that DFO should undertake for its Pacific Marine Aquaculture Finfish Management Regime.

Specific recommendations for actions DFO should undertake for its Pacific Marine Aquaculture Finfish Management Regime

Some key points of divergence and subjects for further discussion were:

Improvements to communication, data sharing and research collaborations

A recurring concern many FHTWG participants directed at DFO was its perceived lack of transparency and deficiency in communications pertaining to aquaculture in BC, although participants did acknowledge financial and staffing constraints. As noted above, the FHTWG recommends that DFO improve its current communication regarding aquaculture with external stakeholders. Several specific suggestions were offered to address this recommendation:

Another recurring critique from many members was the lack of ease of access to information, the lack of “real-time” updates or access to the most current data and information, and the “sole-source” of the data (i.e., only from Departmental processes). There was strong support for DFO to move towards an open-sourced (i.e., publically-available) database for fish health-related information to promote data-sharing among all parties, and to take advantage of existing programs, with an emphasis on real-time data from multiple sources (or as close to this as possible, as some data restrictions might exist, for example, testing results for CFIA-regulated diseases). For example, it was suggested that data collected from scientific collection permits be made available to the Aquaculture Management team to help inform decisions and allow increased public reporting/transparency.

With regards to the recommendation for increased research and expanded data collection, there were a few specific suggestions, with a focus on gaining more knowledge about the health of farmed and wild fish. There should be increased monitoring of the health of farmed, wild, and enhancement fish. This monitoring needs to be appropriately designed to provide insights into fish health (e.g., consider ecological context, seasonality, life stage, species, transmission pathways, etc.), and should piggyback on the existing collection of fish under other programs (e.g., scientific collection permits). Importantly any assessment of health/disease for different populations of fish (i.e., cultured vs. wild) needs to consider the different environments and use different techniques. For example, detection of clinical disease in wild fish can be difficult, but possible with an effective monitoring program and may answer important epidemiological questions such as the role of disease in predator/prey interactions. Therefore, some members of the FHTWG recommended consideration of population impacts, resulting from any degree of physiologic compromise, need to be different for farmed and wild fish given the significant differences in their life histories. The welfare of both farmed and wild fish must be considered and prioritized for both ethical and humane reasons (e.g., minimizing the unnecessary stress and death of fish), and it was recommended that animal welfare experts be closely involved in these consultations.

Accomplishments against the specific questions

On-farm sea lice management

To inform recommendations on improvements to the 2020 and 2022 sea lice Conditions of Licence (COL), the FHTWG was provided an overview of sea lice science and current management in BC, a summary of DFO sea lice compliance challenges, and a compilation of sea lice monitoring and management activities in salmon aquaculture in various jurisdictions in Canada and abroad (Appendix 3).

Based on this input, the FHTWG held extensive discussions on developing advice for DFO Aquaculture Management on how to practically strengthen and improve the on-farm management of sea lice in BC. A number of areas of agreement were reached for proposed changes to the COL.

Specific recommendations regarding the Conditions of Licence (COL) for on-farm sea lice management

Other recommendations related to improving sea lice knowledge and management:

Several of these areas of agreement were subsequently reflected in the 2020 Sea Lice Conditions of Licence (COL) which DFO issued on February 29, 2020Footnote 4. The new COL now have increased requirements for monitoring and reporting of sea lice numbers, some of which are for the purpose of assessing treatment efficacy and preventing drug/pesticide resistance. There is more specific language regarding mitigation and timelines required following sea lice exceedances, which in turn should allow for increased enforceability following non-compliance.

Some key points of divergence and subjects for further discussion include:

Additionally, whereas there was general agreement that there would be value in incorporating relevant fish health information from all potential sources into a single publicly accessible database, there were unresolved deliberations about how quality control and assurance could be achieved.

Importantly, although discussion that ethical requirement to consider the health and welfare of farmed fish, and the need for veterinarians to choose appropriate treatments to support that goal, should be considered in all aspects of management, there was insufficient time for the FHTWG members to provide consensus advice on how this might best be achieved.

There was a recognition that the DFO updated its 2020 conditions of licence incorporating some of the preliminary recommendations of the FHTWG in near ‘real-time’ and that it has committed to reissuing licenses again in 2022 following further consideration of the final FHTWG recommendations and additional consultation with First Nations, ENGOs, Industry and other stakeholders.

On farm fish health management – PRV, HSMI, Jaundice Syndrome

To inform recommendations to DFO related to the specific questions posed to the FHTWG on monitoring and management of Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV), Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), and Jaundice Syndrome (referred to by some as “jaundice/anemia”), reviews were conducted of the current DFO fish health management regimeFootnote 5, a compilation of monitoring and management requirements specific to PRV, and HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome in various aquaculture jurisdictions around the world (Appendix 4).

The reviews show that, among the global jurisdictions assessed, BC is the only one which has instituted reporting requirements targeted at Jaundice Syndrome and/or HSMI. No other jurisdiction has a regulatory requirement for monitoring and reporting the sub-genotype of PRV found in the eastern Pacific. For a period of time Norway required national reporting of HSMI until it became ubiquitous in its waters.

At the request of the FHTWG, a workshop of 17 aquatic veterinarians and veterinary pathologists was convened to review the DFO case definitions for HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome. The FHTWG membership nominated qualified veterinarians to participate in the workshop, and elected an independent facilitator from among a selection of candidates who were also nominated by the FHTWG members. Ultimate selection of workshop participants was based on their independent professional expertise and not as representatives of any organization or regulatory agency. The 2-day workshop was conducted in January 2020 and a report of the participants’ findings (Appendix 6) was made available to the FHTWG in early March 2020, prior to their final meeting. The workshop did not have unanimous consent on issues, but there was a strong majority support by those participating in the workshop, on every recommendation. Workshop participants recommended an additional classification for Jaundice Syndrome but did not recommend significantly changing the case definitions currently applied by DFO veterinarians.

Workshop participants recommended a more stringent case definition for both diseases and a more robust framework for the future detection and classification of HSMI in BC. This was in contrast to the concerns expressed by a number of members of the FHTWG that the historic HSMI case definition, requiring clinical signs and/or mortality, was unjustifiably stringent and therefore missed diagnosing some actual occurrences of HSMI. The workshop report emphasized the need for, and importance of, understanding the pathogenesis of each disease diagnosis in all species of wild salmon and additionally generally noted the importance of conducting research on the virulence factors of PRV and other potential contributing disease agents, and the influence of dynamic environmental and ecological processes to fill identified knowledge gaps.

Based on this input, the FHTWG held extensive discussions on developing advice for DFO on several considerations related to fish health management. Additionally, it was generally agreed that there is a continued need for the evaluation and reporting of potential new and emerging diseases including notifying the CFIA for confirmation and reporting of listed diseases, and for increased collaboration between DFO and the CFIA with regard to researching new and emerging diseases. A number of areas of agreement were reached and recommendations proposed for actions DFO should undertake for its on-farm fish health management of PRV, HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome.

Specific recommendations for actions DFO should undertake for its on-farm fish health management of PRV, HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome

Other recommendations for actions DFO should undertake

Significant debate and discussion among the FHTWG related to PRV in BC and its role in disease development, the extent to which subclinical signs of disease are present and a predictor of health outcomes and/or pathogen-transmission potential, the role of environmental conditions in disease development and transmissivity between aquaculture and wild populations, and the extent to which poorly performing aquaculture fish provide insight into the health of the population or risk to wild salmon health generated polarized perspectives and identified additional issues requiring further consideration, including:

Conclusions

The formation of the FHTWG is acknowledged by its members as an important step in the DFO’s commitment to improving engagement on and the sustainability of aquaculture practices and the protection of wild fish stocks in BC. Given its broad scope and limited term, the FHTWG acknowledges that more work is required to fully deliver on its mandate. Most members recommend continued engagement of relevant parties, in some manner, to provide their perspective on monitoring and regulation of aquaculture in BC beyond the duration of this FHTWG’s mandate. Should this recommendation be accepted, the following guidance is provided:

Members encountered significant challenges which prohibited better outcomes to this process. The two biggest challenges were: a) the short timeframe members were provided in which to build a common understanding on broad and complex issues; and b) real and perceived biases among the members that led to difficult and, frequently challenging discussions, and precluded full consensus on many recommendations/decisions. Nonetheless, a majority of members supported the recommendations outlined in this report and appreciate that some of these recommendations were incorporated in near “real time” into the 2020 Conditions of Licence for marine finfish operators in BC.

Lastly, the varying perspectives of the FHTWG members could serve as context for informing future research investments to improve the knowledge base and lower uncertainties associated with current scientific information on the environmental performance and health of aquaculture and wild fish in BC.

Appendix 1 - List of fish health technical working group members

Fish Health Technical Working Group (FHTWG) delegates

Co-chairs
Name Affiliation Role Email
Dr. Carmel Lowe DFO, Pacific, Science Co-Chair (Ex-officio) carmel.lowe@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Penny Greenwood Canadian Food Inspection Agency Co-Chair (Ex-officio) penny.greenwood@canada.ca
MembersFootnote *
Name Affiliation Role Email
Chad Fuller Okanagan Nation Alliance Delegate cfuller@syilx.org
Larry Johnson Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Development Corporation Delegate (Alternate Jared Dick ) larry.j@ncnseafood.com
jared.dick@nuuchahnulth.org
Richard Holmes Cariboo Envirotech, Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance Delegate carenvir@wlake.com
Dr. Fred Kibenge University of PEI, Atlantic Veterinary College Delegate kibenge@upei.ca
John Werring David Suzuki Foundation Delegate (Alternate Kilian Stehfest) jwerring@davidsuzuki.org
kstehfest@davidsuzuki.org
Sharon DeDominicis Mowi Canada West Delegate (Alternates Dr. Mark Sheppard; Dr. Alexandra Eaves; or Dr. Kathleen Frisch) Sharon.DeDominicis@mowi.com
svsbook@shaw.ca;
Alexandra.eaves@gmail.com;
kathleen.frisch@cermaq.com
Meghan Mills Mowi Canada West Delegate Meghan.Mills@mowi.com
Dr. Brad Hicks Aboriginal Aquaculture Association Delegate bhicks@direct.ca
Dr. Andrew Bateman Pacific Salmon Foundation Delegate (alternate Dr. Emiliano Di Cicco) andrew.w.bateman@gmail.com
Emiliano.DiCicco@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Anthony Farrell University of British Columbia Delegate farrellt@mail.ubc.ca
Dr. Michael Pawlik BC Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Health Centre Delegate (Alternate Dr. Chelsea Himsworth) Michael.Pawlik@gov.bc.ca
Chelsea.Himsworth@gov.bc.ca
Ex officio government representatives
Name Affiliation Role Email
Dr. Kim Klotins Canadian Food Inspection Agency Ex-officio kim.klotins@canada.ca
Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders DFO, Pacific, Science Ex-officio kristi.miller-saunders@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Jay Parsons DFO, NHQ, Aquaculture, Science Ex-officio (Alternate Dr. Sunita Khatkar) Jay.Parsons@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
sunita.khatkar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Zac Waddington DFO, Pacific, AMD Ex-officio (Alternate Dr. Sonja Saksida, Dr. Derek Price) zac.waddington@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
sonja.saksida@gmail.com
Adrienne Paylor DFO, Pacific, AMD Ex-officio (Alternate Kerra Shaw) Adrienne.paylor@dfo-mpo.gc.ca kerra.shaw@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Roderick Haesevoets DFO, NHQ, APD , Stewardship Ex-officio roderick.haesevoets@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Kyle Garver DFO, Pacific, Science Ex-officio kyle.garver@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Simon Jones DFO, Pacific, Science Ex-officio simon.jones@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Administration
Name Affiliation Role Email
Anoma Patirana DFO, Pacific, AMD Secretariat Anoma.Patirana@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Ginny Van Pelt DFO, Pacific, AMD Secretariat Ginny.VanPelt@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Dr. Laura Sitter DFO, Pacific, AMD Secretariat Laura.Sitter@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Appendix 2 - Terms of Reference

Marine finfish and land-based fish health technical working group – Draft terms of reference for discussion

Background and purpose

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced on June 4, 2019, a series of measures related to the transformation of aquaculture management.

This document outlines the proposed structure and function of the Marine Finfish and Land-Based Fish Health Technical Working Group (TWG) to support the development of new and transformative approaches to the management of aquaculture in the Pacific Region.

Guiding principles

The TWG serves the objective of delivering concrete proposals for actions, guided by the following principles:

Objectives

The main objectives of the Working Group will be to:

  1. Provide a forum for the participants to discuss actions underway and planned by the federal government related to aquaculture management transformation, and to allow participants to provide advice and to share information to help inform government decision-making.
  2. Promote dialogue and improve shared understanding of the complexities of aquaculture management transformation, shared responsibilities, and respective authorities of the TWG participants.
  3. Identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership that can advance the collective improvements which can be made relating to the management of aquaculture in the Pacific Region.
  4. The specific tasks of the Fish Health (the scope of fish health includes the health and welfare of cultured fish (including infection, disease, viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.) or any spillover effect which cultured fish may have on the health of wild fish stocks) TWG will be as follows:
    1. Undertake a review of existing marine finfish aquaculture fish health management regimes internationally, including data collection requirements, standards and management metrics, and corresponding management approaches to fish health;
    2. Review previous audits and assessments of DFO’s fish health management regime;
    3. Make recommendations which could improve to using the best possible standards to transforming Pacific Region’s fish health management regime, which could include:
      1. Looking at what is measured and why
      2. Recommending standards and metrics to be used in tracking and reporting and enhancements to the rigor and transparency of data;
      3. Recommendations for creating ‘greater certainty’ in fish health, reducing risk, or mitigating potential adverse outcomes;
      4. Recommendations as to how to better detect, respond to and manage fish health;
      5. Recommending more clear rules for compliance and penalties for noncompliance

Timeframes

The TWG will identify and propose actions that are both immediate and longer term. The proposed timeframe is as follows:

August meeting:

September meeting:

October meeting: Formulate approach for recommendations.

November meeting:

Governance and membership

The TWG will consist of delegates from various Indigenous and stakeholder groups: Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, the aquaculture industry sectors (marine finfish, shellfish, and freshwater/land-based), the Union of BC Municipalities, academia and the Government of British Columbia.

The TWG will be chaired by a senior official from DFO, with ex-officio participation of senior federal officials.

The TWG secretariat will report to the Indigenous and Multi-stakeholder Advisory Body (IMAB), chaired by the Deputy Minister of DFO, on the discussions that were held and the recommendations made, noting the degree of support or divergence among members for advice on different issues.

Additional observers are welcome to listen to discussions; however, participation is limited to members.

Responsibilities of participants

Review circulated information.

Participate in meetings or assign alternate to attend - once per month until the end of 2019.

Engage in open and respectful dialogue, seeking to understand and be understood.

Communicate out to their respective organizations/communities the activities and outcomes of this TWG.

Meeting process

The TWG is anticipated to meet once per month until the end of 2019; however, this may be adjusted by the chair, if needed. The meetings will occur in Vancouver, BC. Teleconferencing and video conferencing will be used where possible to minimize travel demands. DFO will provide secretariat services to support meeting delivery and the preparation of summary meeting notes. The TWG participants will be invited to propose topics for meetings. Agendas will be approved by the chair.

Reporting

The Chair will disseminate meeting summary notes through the federal secretariat to this TWG.

Individual participants of this TWG will also report back to their respective organizations.

The Chair/Secretariat will provide draft meeting summary notes that include a record of recommendations and follow-up actions to all participants within two weeks of the meeting. The TWG will have 2 weeks to review summary notes prior to their finalization.

Budget and financial matters

Direct meeting costs (meeting rooms and videoconference/teleconference technical-related fees) will be covered by DFO.

Each participant will be responsible for their own direct costs associated with participation in the TWG meetings, including travel, accommodations and administrative support.

Appendix 3 - Summary of Sea Lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) management in various jurisdictions in Canada and abroad

Summary of salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) management activities in salmon aquaculture in various jurisdictions in Canada and abroad.

Prepared By: Dr. Simon Jones

The goal of this exercise is to provide a comparative overview of strategies and tools available for the management of salmon lice in marine net pen salmon aquaculture among jurisdictions. The information was obtained from regulators, scientists and/or veterinarians in Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and British Columbia.

The information is summarised in a table format which identifies seasonality considerations for salmon louse monitoring, management thresholds, and whether data are reported publically. The authority under which salmon louse management is implemented is identified. Also summarised are the medicinal and non-medicinal treatment and control methods currently in use in each jurisdiction. In all jurisdictions, monitoring is conducted at the farm level. When reported, data may be aggregated to provide summaries at the regional level.

There is variation among jurisdictions in the extent to which management activities (e.g., stocking, harvesting, fallowing and sea lice treatments) are co-ordinated within localised areas (e.g., Bays, Lochs, Fjords). In all jurisdictions, these coordinated area-based activities are governed by agreements between regulators and producers, or among producers, and are not mandated in legislation. The rationale for area management differs among regions. In the Bay of Fundy, Aquaculture Bay Management Areas were implemented by the Province of New Brunswick in response to outbreaks of Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus. Alternatively in British Columbia, the presence of multiple sites operated by one company in a region (e.g., Quatsino, Clayoquot, Esperanza) facilitates the coordination of management measures.

Table 1. Region-specific, salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) management activities
Region Dates Monitoring THD AUTH RPT Management
STK HVT FLW TRT
Scotland Feb1-Jun30 Jul1-Jan31 WK, 5x5 0.5af
1.0af
2.0af3
6.0af4
CoGP
CoGP
AF(S)A
AF(S)A
PUB - in-use 4WK in-use
Ireland Mar1-May31 Jun1-Feb28 2/MN, 2x30 MN, 2x30 0.5of
2.0of
DAFM PUB in-use in-use 4WK in-use
Norway- West, -Mid MidApr-May31 Jun1-midApr WK, allx20
WK, allx10
0.2af
0.5af
NFSA PUB in-use in-use in-use in-use
Norway North MidMay-Jun30 Jul1-midMay WK, allx20
WK, allx10
0.2af
0.5af
NFSA PUB in-use in-use in-use in-use
CAN-NB All year WK - DAAF PVT -  - in-use  -
CAN-NL - - - FLR PVT - - in-use  -
CAN-BC Mar1-Jun30 Jul1-Feb28 2WK, 3x20 MN, 3x20 3.0mt
3.0mt
FA, PAR, CoL PUB - - in-use -
Table 2. Region-specific treatment and other control methods for salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis infestations in salmon aquaculture
Region In-feed BATH NONCHEM BIO
EMB IVM TFB DFB LFN HPX DTM AZM HL TL FW CF
Scotland in-use - - - - in-use in-use in-use in-use in-use - in-use
Ireland in-use - in-use - - in-use in-use - in-use in-use in-use in-use
Norway in-use - in-use in-use - in-use in-use in-use in-use in-use in-use in-use
CAN-NB in-use in-use - - in-use in-use - in-use in-use in-use - in-use
CAN-NL in-use in-use - - in-use in-use - in-use in-use in-use in-use in-use
CAN-BC in-use - - - in-use in-use - - in-use - in-use -

Appendix 4 - Comparison of PRV, HSMI, Jaundice Syndrome in various jurisdictions

Comparison tables – Actions of various international jurisdictions regarding PRV, HSMI, and Jaundice Syndrome

PRV
Country/Region PRV “Strain” present Diagnosis description Threshold for action Management action
British Columbia

PRV-1a

There is no diagnosis simply for PRV as it is not a disease.

This step would relate to the presence or absence of PRV as detected by PCR.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has committed to a two year targeted survey to screen for Norwegian and Icelandic PRV in hatcheries.

There is no threshold for action set specifically for PRV. There would only be an action required for disease showing clinical signs (morbidity or mortality), and PRV itself is not a disease. Note: approach under review

DFO is currently assessing the risk of transferring PRVin-use fish into the marine environment from a hatchery to determine if there will be a threshold for action in the future.

None.

Not reportable or notifiable to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), provincial authorities, or DFO.

DFO does not currently have a management action dictated, other than licence holders must report all fish health events and mortality events. PRV is not a disease, and as such, there is no action taken if it is detected at this time in absence of illness.

East Coast of Canada New Brunswick/
Newfoundland and Labrador/
Nova Scotia

PRV-1a

Not a disease, so no diagnosis can be made.

None. Note: approach under review

None.

No management action or reporting required. No regulatory movement restrictions based on solely PRV presence.

Not reportable or notifiable to the CFIA, provincial authorities, or DFO.

Washington State, USA

PRV1-a

Not a disease, so no diagnosis can be made.

To screen for PRV, the process they use is to conduct QPCR on the L1 fragment. If this comes back positive, then sequence S1 fragment for origin, which they believe can easily be determined. Washington use the terminology “North Atlantic” or “exotic” PRV-1 for strains found anywhere in Norway or Iceland and “endemic” PRV-1 for the strain found in the Pacific Northwest.

Hatchery monitoring:

There is no requirement for PRV testing in Washington for transfers within state (with one exception: one hatchery previously tested positive for North Atlantic PRV-1, and there is a plan to monitor the facility for 3-5 years to ensure this situation is resolved).

There is a requirement for PRV-1 and PRV-3 testing on any fish transfers occurring into the state from other jurisdictions.

When fish are required to be tested, the sample size is 150 fish.

  • There no response or threshold for “endemic” PRV-1 (aka BC strain).
  • If 1 fish tests positive for “North Atlantic/exotic” PRV-1, that is a threshold for action.

Marine Monitoring:

Washington State will not be renewing aquaculture licences for Atlantic salmon farming after 2022. At this time, there are only 2 pens left in Washington with Atlantic salmon, and these will be harvested out in the near future. Atlantic salmon farming may be replaced with other native species, such as Steelhead. If this occurs, there are plans to test for regulated pathogens and PRV-1 (which is not regulated) 1-2 times annually/farm (which has not historically occurred).

For hatchery to marine site transfers:

  • No management action for “endemic” PRV-1 (aka BC strain). Transfer of fish allowed.
  • Movement is restricted for “North Atlantic” PRV-1 (which was identified in hatchery fish in 2018). Transfers would be denied.

For marine testing (if this occurs in the future):

There will be no response if the PRV-1 endemic strain is found to be present. Response, if any, to a positive test of North Atlantic PRV-1 is unknown at this time.

Dr. Kenneth Warheit, director of fish health for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) says “The WDFW’s current management associated with PRV is consistent with that white paper [entitled “Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) in the Pacific Northwest Appears to be of Low Risk to Wild Pacific Salmonids]” which is referenced here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/

1OxHv7GXddmEXA7pRH4N4MGACzdZUhUL8/view

Washington state will no longer be renewing aquaculture tenures after the final one expires in 2022 for the purpose of growing Atlantic salmon.

Norway

PRV-1a and PRV-1b

Not a disease, so no diagnosis can be made.

This virus is detected on farmed salmon and associated with HSMB (as they call HSMI) and has been found in wild salmonids without inflammation of the heart. The technique to detect PRV is a PCR method.

There is no requirement to test for PRV in hatcheries or vaccinate (no available vaccination exists).

There is some screening for PRV in smaller fish. If fish test positive, the fish health service will take samples for histopathology to determine if HSMB signs are present.

None.

Not reportable to the country’s competent authority (Norwegian Food Safety Authority). It was required ~2012 but not currently.

No management action or reporting required. No regulatory movement restriction based solely on PRV presence.

Scotland

PRV-1a

Infection with PRV-1 is associated with HSMI but in the majority of cases is not found in conjunction with HSMI. PRV-1 has been found in wild and farmed salmonids and most often not associated with disease. HSMI has not been diagnosed in wild fish.

None.

Infection with PRV-1 is not a listed disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), European Union, or Scotland. This virus is widely distributed (in wild, farmed, healthy and unhealthy salmon).

Not reportable to the country’s competent authority (Marine Scotland).

No management action or reporting required. No regulatory movement restriction based solely on PRV-1 presence.

The Aquatic Animal Health (Scotland) Regulations 2009 require that transport of only healthy animals takes place.

Chile

PRV-1a and PRV-1b

Not a disease, so no diagnosis can be made.

Considered to be fairly ubiquitous (wild and farmed salmonids) and most often not associated with disease.

None.

None.

Not reportable to the country’s competent authority (Sernapesca).

No management action required. No regulatory movement restriction based solely on PRV presence.

Tasmania

Not found

Not found; so not commented on in other sections.

N/A

N/A

HSMI
Country/Region PRV “Strain” present Diagnosis description Threshold for action Management action
British Columbia PRV-1a DFO uses the following definition of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon populations:
  • There is population level mortality attributable to the disease and/or clinical signs (e.g., lethargy, abnormal swimming, anorexia); and
  • Characteristic microscopic lesions consistent with the disease (heart inflammation in-use/- skeletal muscle inflammation without systemic inflammation) as determined by a histopathologist are present; and
  • PRV infection is confirmed, and other viral causes (i.e., SAV, CMSV) have been ruled out.
Currently not regulated by the CFIA; however, the Agency monitors for changes that would lead to a re-evaluation of the criteria to regulate in Canada. At this time, there is no action threshold set by DFO that is different than any other disease. If it caused clinical signs (morbidity or mortality), industry would follow their Health Management Plan and SOPs in order to appropriately respond. Currently not regulated by the CFIA; however, the Agency monitors for changes that would lead to a reevaluation of the criteria to regulate in Canada. DFO does not have a unique management action required following a positive diagnosis of HSMI, which to date has not shown clinical signs or mortality in BC. Reporting to DFO would be required if HSMI resulted in a Fish Health Event or a Mortality Event. Industry must follow Fish Health Management Plan and their Standard Operating Procedures.
East Coast of Canada New Brunswick/
Newfoundland and Labrador/
Nova Scotia
PRV-1a Not currently being diagnosed; but at minimum, would require clinical and histological signs, while ruling out other known diseases. No action threshold; not reportable or notifiable to CFIA, provincial agencies, or DFO. Currently not regulated by the CFIA; however, the Agency monitors for changes that would lead to a reevaluation of the criteria to regulate in Canada. Not reportable or notifiable to CFIA, provincial agencies, or DFO. No management action or reporting required for HSMI.
Washington State, USA PRV-1a They would need to observe clinical signs, which would be followed up with histology to look for HSMI-characteristic indicators, rule out other possible causes, and test positive for PRV in order to diagnose HSMI. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has not historically collected independent sampling from marine sites, but intend on initiating a program in 2020 to do so; however, all Atlantic salmon will all be out of the water by that time and not re-stocked, so monitoring will be dependent on there being other finfish in the water to monitor. At this time, WDFW can require industry to report testing results (including symptoms associated with HSMI), but have never done so. Currently no action threshold and no reported cases of HSMI. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife statement: they have not identified a single study to support the claim that PRV from open-water pens will harm wild fish and HSMI has never been detected in our native salmon or any fish other than farmed Atlantic salmon. The WDFW focus of their future monitoring program will be on the health of fish, not HSMI (Dr. Kenneth Warheit, pers. comm), however symptoms of HSMI will be assessed if detected.
Norway PRV-1a and PRV-1b HSMI is considered endemic in Norway. Disease can be detected based on suspicion in field (i.e., clinical signs such as increased mortality and morbidity following a handling or stressful event and some fish exhibiting symptoms). Histological lesions confirm diagnosis, after other diseases (CMS and PD) are ruled out. However, the fish health service does some screening on “healthy” fish because HSMB can be hard to detect only using clinical signs in the early stages. Individual fish diagnosis is made by light microscopy (histopathology). The fish health service gets between 1-10 formalin-fixed fish for examination. One fish being diagnosed with HSMB is enough to confirm a diagnosis for the farm. No action threshold by government. Norway considers this to be a production disease (found on farms) but not proven to exist in wild salmon at this time, although this has not been fully explored. There are no reporting requirements for HSMI. Norway considers this to be a production disease. There is no known treatment and no vaccine on the market. If the fish health service finds histological signs of HSMB in early stages (pre-clinical signs), the company may implement changes for the rest of the production cycle: such as decreased handling and moving to a special feed. Decreasing handling and other stressors can decrease the intensity of disease outbreak.
Scotland PRV-1a HSMI is detected based on suspicion in field. Gross signs are: abnormal swimming behavior and anorexia 5-9 months after sea transfer, signs of circulatory disturbance, pale heart, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, yellow liver, swollen spleen, and bruising in the perivascular fat. There is often morbidity and mortality ranging from negligible to 20%. Significant histological lesions would be present before HSMI would be diagnosed, after other causes ruled out (e.g., PD and CMS). Minor histological lesions would be identified as HSMI-like and fish would be monitored to see if it develops into HSMI in the field. Number of cases with HSMI type pathology decreased in 2018. Many subclinical with very mild pathology. Scotland considers this to be a production disease; and there are relatively few cases within the industry and the disease has not been reported in the wild. It is therefore managed by industry not the Scottish government. HSMI is not listed as a disease by the OIE or within the EU. The Scottish Government has a disease surveillance program, primarily aimed at the diagnosis of listed notifiable diseases and emerging diseases and will test samples of moribund fish. If HSMI is diagnosed, information is provided to the industry. Industry determines the action. Not reportable. No management action or reporting requirements for HSMI. Industry driven action. The Aquatic Animal Health (Scotland) Regulations 2009 require that transport of only healthy animals takes place.
Chile PRV-1a and PRV-1b HSMI is considered endemic in Chile. Disease is detected based on suspicion in field (i.e., higher than expected increased mortality and morbidity). Histological lesions and PCR positive result confirm clinical signs. No action threshold. Associated mortality reported weekly. No management action required for HSMI.
Jaundice Syndrome
Country/Region PRV “Strain” present Diagnosis description Threshold for action Management action
British Columbia PRV-1a

Jaundice Syndrome (aka Jaundice/anemia) is diagnosed in a farmed Chinook salmon population when there is population level mortality attributable to the disease with characteristic gross and histologic lesions, and no evidence of systemic inflammatory disease.

Characteristic gross pathology includes yellow discolouration in the periorbital region and ventrum. Gills and liver are very pale (indicating anemia).

Characteristic histopathology includes renal tubular epithelial cell necrosis and generally some associated liver pathology.

Not reportable or notifiable to CFIA.

At this time, there is no action threshold set by DFO that is different than any other disease.

If Jaundice Syndrome caused clinical signs (morbidity or mortality), industry would follow their Health Management Plan and associated Standard Operating Procedures in order to appropriately respond.

Not reportable or notifiable to CFIA.

DFO does not have a unique management action required following a positive diagnosis of Jaundice Syndrome, which to date has caused very low levels of clinical signs or mortality (< 0.05%) in BC.

Reporting to DFO is required if Jaundice Syndrome results in a Fish Health Event or a Mortality Event. Industry must follow Fish Health Management Plan and their Standard Operating Procedures.

East Coast of Canada PRV-1a

No Pacific salmon reared

N/A

N/A

Washington State, USA PRV1-a

No Pacific salmon reared

N/A

N/A

Norway PRV-1a and PRV-1b

No Pacific salmon reared

N/A

N/A

Scotland PRV-1a

No Pacific salmon reared

N/A

N/A

Chile PRV-1a and PRV-1b

Jaundice Syndrome is considered endemic in Chile. Disease is detected based on clinical signs (i.e., jaundice).

No action threshold.

Associated mortality reported weekly.

No management action required for Jaundice Syndrome.

Appendix 5 - Presentation by Dr. Craig Stephen on alternate approaches to management of fish health

Applying modern concepts of health to salmon
(PDF, 1.67 MB)

Appendix 6 - Final report of the veterinary workshop

Workshop to evaluate the DFO case definitions for Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon, and Jaundice Syndrome in farmed Chinook salmon, in British Columbia

Dr. Ian Gardner
January 28-29, 2020.
Vancouver, British Columbia

Introduction

This Workshop was organized to fulfill a recommendation arising from the Fish Health Technical Working Group (FH TWG), established by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in August 2019, which suggested the convening of a group of qualified veterinarians and veterinary pathologists to examine the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) current case definitions for Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) and Jaundice Syndrome in British Columbia (BC). The objective of this workshop was to review and, if necessary, revise the DFO case definitions for HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome in BC to meet the goals of monitoring these diseases and compare them to any existing international standards or conventions. This workshop sought input from practicing aquatic veterinarians, regulatory veterinarians, and veterinary pathologists from Canada, Norway, and the United States.

The workshop was held over a two-day period in Vancouver, BC at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel. The veterinary facilitator and participants were invited based on suggestions by the members of the FH TWG, with the participants invited from countries with experience of the conditions in question. Additionally, the facilitator was selected by majority vote of the FH TWG from a pool of potential candidates put forward by the FH TWG. Each day was dedicated to one of the two conditions. Both days of the workshop were structured in a similar fashion - material was presented relevant to each condition, and discussions within the group followed. Discussions took the form of small “break out” groups as well as whole-group conversations. Several scientific publications were referenced throughout these conversations. For reference, these citations are listed at the end of this report.

At various points during the workshop, members were invited to vote on different issues, including on the drafted case definitions. Votes were recorded as “yay”, “nay”, or “abstain”. The Workshop facilitator and one international participant abstained from all voting. In cases where there were differing points of view preventing unanimity, the dissenting view(s) were documented.

HSMI

Introduction/context

Context on the BC experience with HSMI and idiopathic cardiopathy was provided through four presentations. These presentations gave a history and overview of the DFO Fish Health Audit and Intelligence Program (FHAIP), a summary of audit data collected from 2002 to present, a review of histopathologic analysis and common pitfalls, and independent research conducted on marine Atlantic salmon farms in BC. Audit data have shown that in the last ten years, diagnoses of idiopathic cardiopathy have remained stable, with approximately 2% of fresh silvers sampled for audit demonstrating histologic lesions. Dissent arose on whether at least some of those cases could be HSMI (i.e., not idiopathic cardiopathy) and whether the DFO FHAIP data represent the situation in BC or were affected by biases in the selection of the data presented and collection methods; the concern being that this might result in underestimation of fish-level prevalence of HSMI. On the other hand, there has been only a single longitudinal study of piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) and HSMI, and the population dynamics of PRV and HSMI at the selected farm may be unrepresentative of the true situation in BC. Questions and comments from participants were allowed during and after each presentation, and often generated short discussion. The greatest point of contention was whether there was sufficient evidence to unequivocally say that HSMI was present in BC (see Section 2b). The presenters and titles of their respective presentations are included in Appendix 4.

The case definition for HSMI used by DFO for the FHAIP at present is:

Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) is diagnosed in a farmed Atlantic salmon population when there is population level mortality attributable to the disease and/or clinical signs (e.g., lethargy, abnormal swimming, anorexia) and;

It was noted that in the DFO FHAIP, when there are two or more fish diagnosed on histology with idiopathic cardiopathy, but with no evidence of population level effects (i.e., clinical signs or mortality), idiopathic cardiopathy is recorded as a Condition of Note in the public report of the FHAIP. Therefore any subclinical instances of heart inflammation are being captured and documented by the FHAIP.

Context on the global experience with HSMI and idiopathic cardiopathy in Norway, Chile, Washington State (USA), and Atlantic Canada was provided through four presentations from participants. Presentations included case definitions (if present) and other material relevant to HSMI in their jurisdictions. Questions and comments from participants were allowed during and after each presentation, and often generated short discussion. The presenters and titles of their respective presentations are included in Appendix 4.

In Norway, HSMI is diagnosed by identification of characteristic histologic lesions in the heart and skeletal muscle. There is no requirement for clinical signs, increased mortality, or positive test results for PRV. However, a farm is unlikely to submit a healthy fish for diagnostics. Fish are submitted for analysis by industry when prompted by presentation of clinical signs or increased mortality; the histopathologist may not receive the signalment. There is no regulatory program with routine sampling of farmed Atlantic salmon in Norway. It was explained that since Norway has identified and characterized the disease (including prevalence and pathogenesis) over a 20-year period, only histology is required to make a diagnosis. The only other diseases known to cause similar lesions that are present in Norway are pancreas disease (PD) and cardiomyopathy syndrome (CMS,) both of which can be distinguished histologically and through testing for their respective viral etiologies (SAV, PMCV). In Norway, subclinical disease has been characterized as the presence of histologic lesions without clinical signs (including gross pathology) or increased mortality.

In Chile, the case definition for HSMI in Atlantic salmon is as followsFootnote 15: “suspected case: presence of characteristic clinical signs, positive result to PRV RT-PCR, or detection of characteristic lesions through histology,” and “confirmed case: positive result to PRV RT-PCR, associated with detection of characteristic lesions, through histology with or without clinical signs.” “Differential diagnosis with other diseases that affect the heart must be conducted. Main morphological changes include myocarditis, myocardial degeneration, myositis, and degeneration of red muscle. On occasion it is possible to observe multifocal hepatocyte necrosis.” Another participant reported that in Chile the diagnosis of HSMI is solely based on the presence of histological lesions and PRV, with or without clinical signs. In Chile, surveillance of all disease is conducted passively by industry using private laboratories (authorized by Sernapesca). The laboratories report to the federal authority on an annual basis. From laboratory reports, the federal authority sets disease reporting and surveillance structures for the diseases that are present in the country in three levels- exotic, endemic, and emerging. Twenty percent of all farmed Atlantic salmon mortalities reported in Chile are due to infectious-related causes, and of that number, four percent are attributed to HSMI. This disease is not regulated by Chile.

Neither Washington State (USA) nor Atlantic Canada have case definitions or experience with HSMI within their jurisdictions. HSMI has not been diagnosed in those regions.

There is currently no international standard for diagnosis of HSMI. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is the standard-setting organization and the only international body that sets case definitions for listed animal diseases. There is currently no case definition for HSMI as set out by the OIE as it is not an OIE-listed disease. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) currently does not regulate PRV. The CFIA does consider PRV and HSMI to be potential emerging diseases and continues to monitor the science.

In 2012, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) published information on HSMI in a bulletin, which has been used internationally. This information can serve as scientific advice to countries that support ICES, however it is not an internationally recognized case definition by competent authorities.

Discussion

Discussion on this topic took place in both a large group setting, with all participants around the same table, and in three small “breakout” groups which then reconvened for larger group discussion. There was significant discussion around the existing science on HSMI in BC, with several different perspectives voiced throughout. One participant indicated that there was a conclusively established causal agent (PRV) for HSMI (or at least a very strong statistical and spatial association with PRV) worldwide. The majority of participants believed that evidence for occurrence of Norwegian form of HSMI in BC as reported was equivocal or non-existent, and laboratory challenge studies had failed to produce clinical disease or microscopic lesions consistent with HSMI (as in Norway). One participant noted that, to date, no lab challenge worldwide has ever been able to reproduce the clinical manifestation of HSMI. The PRV used in challenge trials in BC is considered to be of low virulence.

The majority of participants agreed that a fish-level diagnosis was not required at this time, due to both the uncertainty of the presence of HSMI in BC and the infectious component of the disease which suggests that more than one fish would be affected in an audit sample. For these reasons, prevalence and incidence are unable to be determined currently.

The majority of participants did not believe that there was enough evidence to determine the presence of HSMI in BC waters, as evidenced through a vote.

Participants were invited to vote on “Do we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that there is population-level HSMI in BC?” The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 2

Nay: 14

Abstain: 2

Reason for Yays

2 – based on the Di Cicco et al. (2017) paper, HSMI was evident in dead fish and in live (apparently healthy) fish based on longitudinal sampling in a single farm in BC

Reason for Nays-

14- not enough evidence (at present) to confirm presence of disease in BC; field-based data have not shown same clinical presentation of HSMI as in Norway, and transmission trials with Canadian isolate of PRV have failed to produce significant lesions in challenged fish.

Following this vote, and in order to continue the discussion for the DFO case definition of HSMI, participants agreed that discussion of the HSMI case reported by Di Cicco et al. (2017) was unnecessary to be able to proceed to consideration of the case definition for future cases.

In the breakout groups, participants were tasked with reviewing and, if necessary, revising the existing DFO case definitions for HSMI in BC. Each group came up with suggestions, which were all very similar to each other. It was agreed to proceed with the suggestion to format the case definition as a flowchart. The following was developed:

DFO Audit Program: Farm-level diagnosis pathway for HSMI in the marine environment

If the following five (5) situations are true:

Clinical signs (lethargy, anorexia, abnormal swimming) consistent with disease and/or farm level mortality above baseline attributable to disease;

and

Gross pathology consistent with circulatory disturbance defined as at least one of: pale heart, congested liver (and sometimes with a thin gelatinous membrane), ascites (serosanguinous), empty gastrointestinal tract, swollen spleen;

and If suspicious of HSMI then DFO will request expedited histology

Microscopic lesions include moderate to severe inflammation in the heart- epicarditis and endocarditis in the compact layer and spongey layer with myocardial degeneration and lymphocytic histiocytic infiltration in-use/- red skeletal muscle lesions with no systemic inflammation in two or more fish;

and

Confirm PRV infection in affected fish;

and

Rule out other causes of similar lesions;

then

Targeted audit performed - where 15 fresh dead and 15 live fish will be sampled and submitted for expedited histopathology of all standard organs. If histopathology shows moderate to severe inflammation in the heart consistent with HSMI in-use/- red skeletal muscle lesions with no signs of systemic inflammation in > 50% fish submitted (expedited assessment to for HSMI);

then

Perform qPCR to confirm PRV, and sequence 5 fish with lowest Ct values. This leads to a:

Provisional (presumptive) HSMI diagnosis. This would lead to:

Ongoing field investigation and Laboratory challenge trial

where

If clinical signs and/or population level mortality attributable to disease are found to persist AND if lesions are reproduced in the lab

then

Farm-level HSMI diagnosis confirmed.

If not, then new disease characterization to occur.

Participants were invited to vote for the suggested case definition flowchart up to the “provisional2 diagnosis” line. The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 14

Nay: 2

Abstain: 2

Reason for Nays-

The two “nays” both agreed that the overall pathway was adequate. The dissent was:

In an effort to achieve consensus, further discussion took place based on the results of the vote. The majority of participants were adamant that clinical signs and increased mortality were critical for a population-level diagnosis, so this condition remained in the flow chart. Since most of the participants agreed with the pathway, a second vote was conducted.

Participants were invited to vote to review the pathway and not the nomenclature for the result (i.e., provisional vs diagnosis). The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 15

Nay: 1

Abstain: 2

Reason for Nays-

Following this vote, significant discussion and debate ensued to discuss confirmatory testing. There were many different perspectives in this discussion- several participants felt that controlled transmission tests performed in a laboratory setting were critical, while several others disagreed since the disease could be demonstrated in the field and that was sufficient. Others held different views about which molecular tests should be performed and with which tissues.

Ultimately, participants were invited to vote to accept the pathway leading from the “provisional2 diagnosis” to the “confirmed diagnosis”, specifically regarding the inclusion of positive field and laboratory studies. The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 12

Nay: 4

Abstain: 2

Reason for Nays-

Conclusions and recommendations

This topic generated significant discussion and debate about the existing science on HSMI in BC. In some cases, unanimity was not achieved. There were significant areas of undisputed agreement as well, for example on the need for further research into risk factors for clinical expression of HSMI disease. Three risk factors (mechanical handling of fish, concurrent disease, and environmental conditions) have been identified in Norwegian studies. The participants recommend that further research be conducted into HSMI and its potential presentation in BC, with a focus on pathogenesis and variation in virulence from other well-documented occurrences in Norway.

The majority of the participants voted on a revised case definition for HSMI in BC. The majority of participants recommend this case definition be adopted in the DFO FHAIP. Any future presumptive case of HSMI diagnosed in BC by the FHAIP (as outlined in the flowchart) would trigger confirmatory testing/monitoring in order to be recorded and reported as a “confirmed HSMI case” using the processes outlined in the flowchart. If HSMI is then confirmed, these confirmatory tests/monitoring would not be required for subsequent HSMI diagnoses.

If HSMI is not confirmed with follow-up testing/monitoring, then it was suggested that a formalized disease characterization (including unique naming), would be required. The inclusion of a targeted audit of fifteen dead and fifteen live fish for histopathology, qPCR and sequencing should enhance early detection of HSMI. If the detected PRV strain is exotic to BC, the CFIA will launch an investigation with DFO to confirm the presence of the disease, describe the current epidemiology, determine the origin, and report to the OIE.

Jaundice Syndrome

Introduction/context

Context on the BC experience with Jaundice Syndrome was provided through three presentations. These presentations gave a summary of audit data collected over a 20-year timeframe, and independent research conducted on Pacific salmon in BC. Questions and comments from participants were allowed after each presentation, and often generated short discussion. It was noted that the incidence of jaundice in farmed Chinook salmon has remained stable over time (at approximately 0.3% of all stocked fish over the audit period), with a demonstration of a seasonal pattern of occurrence and a suggested correlation between time of smolt entry into the marine environment. It has also been proposed that there is a causal link between PRV and jaundice in Chinook salmon (Di Cicco 2018). The presenters and titles of their respective presentations are included in Appendix 4.

The case definition for Jaundice Syndrome currently in use by the DFO for the FHAIP is:

Jaundice Syndrome is diagnosed in a farmed Chinook salmon population when there is population level mortality attributable to the disease with characteristic gross and histologic lesions, and no evidence of systemic inflammatory disease.

Context on the global experience with Jaundice syndrome was provided through presentations on the Chilean experience. Questions and comments from participants were allowed following the presentations, and they generated minimal discussion.

In Chile, a similar disease is called Coho salmon Jaundice syndrome (SISC) and is defined as “suspected case: presence of characteristic clinical signs in a population of susceptible fish” and “confirmed case: presence of characteristic clinical signs and associated mortality with or without lab confirmation” where “characteristic clinical signs” are yellow discolouration. In Chile in 2018, ten percent of all mortalities in Coho salmon were attributable to infectious disease. Of that ten percent, approximately half of the mortalities were classified as jaundice. SISC is not regulated by Chile.

Discussion

Following the presentations, there was significant discussion about the name of the disease in question, specifically whether the case definition was to be developed for “Jaundice syndrome” or “Jaundice/anemia syndrome”. All participants agreed that there are multiple causes of jaundice in fish, that there are multiple causes of anemia in fish, and that simply having one or both present does not infer correlation. Most participants felt that there was not enough evidence to confirm a causal link between PRV and the development of jaundice in Chinook salmon. It was also noted by several participants that the term “anemia” has historically been used incorrectly when classifying carcasses that display pallor in gills and internal tissues, which may be misleading for data analysis. Research conducted independently on FHAIP data relied on terminology used, which included “anemia”. The participants agreed that anemia cannot be diagnosed on a post-mortem basis with gross pathology or histology. A packed cell volume (PCV) or hematocrit is required.

Participants were invited to vote to review a case definition for “Jaundice syndrome”. The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 15

Nay: 0

Abstain: 3

Reason for abstentions-

The group was divided into three different breakout groups for discussion on the case definitions for Jaundice syndrome. Two of the three groups suggested a very similar case definition based on Jaundice syndrome being a non-specific diagnosis after ruling out other known causes of gross yellow discolouration. The third group suggested that the existing case definition (used by DFO FHAIP) was sufficient but with the addition of ruling out other differentials as well as more specific identification of histological lesions. There was disagreement within this smaller group regarding the consideration of subclinical fish. The majority of participants agreed that it would be difficult to find subclinical fish when the specific pathogenesis and associated histological lesions have not yet been described. From this discussion, the following case definitions were developed:

Fish level - jaundice syndrome is diagnosed in a Pacific salmon when a fish with gross pathology including diffuse yellow discolouration of periorbital region and/or ventrum is found during an audit and no other known causes of jaundice are detected

Farm level - jaundice syndrome is diagnosed in a farmed Pacific salmon population when fish with gross pathology including diffuse yellow discolouration of periorbital region and/or ventrum are found during an audit and no other known causes of jaundice are detected

Participants were invited to vote to review a fish-level case definition for “Jaundice syndrome”. Just prior to this vote, and subsequent votes, one participant left the Workshop due to previously scheduled travel arrangements. They did not participate in any of the votes regarding Jaundice syndrome. The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 14

Nay: 1

Abstain: 2

Reason for Nays-

Participants were then invited to vote to review a population-level case definition for “Jaundice syndrome”. The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 12

Nay: 3

Abstain: 2

Reason for Nays-

It was noted that in the DFO FHAIP, when there is not sufficient information for the DFO regulatory veterinarian to definitively diagnose a cause of death at the farm-level, but there are two or more fish affected, then it is listed as a “Condition of Note”. The subsequent conversation resulted in the following revised case definitions:

Fish level - jaundice syndrome is diagnosed in a Pacific salmon when a fish with gross pathology including diffuse yellow discolouration of periorbital region and/or ventrum is found during an audit and no other known causes of jaundice are detected

Condition of note: jaundice syndrome is diagnosed in a farmed Pacific salmon population when two or more fish with gross pathology including diffuse yellow discolouration of periorbital region and/or ventrum are found during an audit and no other known causes of jaundice are detected

Farm level - jaundice syndrome is diagnosed in a farmed Pacific salmon population when fish with gross pathology including diffuse yellow discolouration of periorbital region and/or ventrum are found during an audit and no other known causes of jaundice are detected and there is population level mortality attributable to the condition.

Participants were invited to vote on the revised wording to case definitions for “Jaundice syndrome” to include “Condition of Note” and inclusion of mortality elevation at the farm-level. The results of the vote were as follows:

Yay: 14

Nay: 1

Abstain: 2

Reason for Nays -

1- participant said that if yellow discolouration is the only criteria for diagnosis, then subclinical cases will be missed and result in underdiagnosis of disease

Conclusion and recommendations

The largest source of discussion for this disease condition was the lack of science around causes of jaundice in Pacific salmon. There have been a few publications which have described specific aspects of jaundice, however there is a significant knowledge void surrounding pathogenesis of jaundice in Pacific salmon for both viral and non-viral etiologies.

The majority of the participants voted for revised case definitions for Jaundice syndrome in BC, which was a non-specific diagnosis of exclusion. The majority of participants recommend these case definitions be adopted in the DFO FHAIP. They recommend that further research be conducted into jaundice and its potential etiologies, with a focus on pathogenesis of both viral and non-viral causes. Earlier detection of new cases should be enhanced by recording jaundice as a “Condition of note”.

Concluding remarks

The majority of the workshop participants voted in favor of a revised population-level case definition for HSMI with criteria defined for a presumptive and a confirmed diagnosis. The revised definition was deemed to be more stringent (specific) and demanding than the existing case definition by some participants and lacked clarity as to diagnostic methods to “rule out” other known viral myopathies (currently absent from BC). Because of limited time, the diagnostic methods for the rule-out of other diseases were not discussed.

A fish-level case definition was not considered relevant for HSMI because the disease is considered to have an infectious component and there would likely be at least two fish detected by audit testing. Confirmation is facilitated by use of a targeted audit of fifteen live and fifteen dead fish with expedited testing. During discussions, DFO personnel indicated that targeted audits could also occur at the discretion of DFO, if only a single HSMI-suspect fish (rather than two) was detected.

Similarly, the majority of the workshop participants voted in favor of a revised population-level case definition for Jaundice syndrome, with a definition at the fish level and inclusion of a category of “Condition of note” in reporting of audit findings. The participants agreed that significantly more research into these two conditions in BC was required, and they emphasized the need for continued monitoring and surveillance. It was also recommended that the definitions drafted by the participants be adopted in the FHAIP program going forward.

At the conclusion of the Workshop, participants were invited to provide their feedback regarding the process, including:

It should be noted that while the Workshop agenda dedicated a full day of discussion for each disease, in reality the proceedings on HSMI took up significantly more time than anticipated, resulting in a deviation from the agenda, and only a half-day discussion on Jaundice syndrome. This was likely due to the larger body of knowledge and material to cover, as well as the contentious nature of the subject. As a result, some topics like diagnostic testing were not addressed. In the future, it would be prudent to allocate more time for discussions of this nature or narrow the scope.

From my perspective as Facilitator, the workshop format which involved discussions in the larger group with smaller breakout groups (five or six participants per group) helped ensure differing opinions were able to be expressed and discussed openly before voting. I recommend that this format be used in similar workshops in the future.

References

Appendices

Appendix A - Terms of reference

Terms of reference for a workshop to evaluate the DFO case definitions for HSMI in farmed Atlantic salmon and Jaundice Syndrome in farmed Chinook salmon in British Columbia.

December, 2019

Objective

The objective of this workshop will be to review and, if necessary, revise the case definitions for HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome in BC to meet the goals of monitoring these diseases. More specifically, we expect this workshop to include the following topics related to the current DFO case definitions (Appendix 1):

Scope

This workshop will seek to review and, as appropriate, update the case definitions for HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome in British Columbia with input from practicing aquatic veterinarians, regulatory veterinarians and veterinary pathologists.

Deliverables

Specific case definitions for fish-level and farm-level diagnosis of HSMI in farmed Atlantic salmon in BC

Specific definitions for fish-level and farm-level diagnosis of Jaundice Syndrome in farmed Chinook salmon in BC

Recommended protocol for early detection of HSMI in farmed Atlantic salmon in BC in the DFO enhanced monitoring program

Recommended protocol for early detection of Jaundice syndrome in farmed Chinook salmon in BC DFO enhanced monitoring program

Recommend required lab diagnostic testing for DFO enhanced monitoring program and targeted audits

A summary report that includes the different points of view expressed at the meeting.

Roles and responsibilities

Meeting participants are expected to act in accordance with the code of conduct of their profession, contribute to the discussions and deliverables using scientific evidence and to strive for consensus (where consensus means an absence of opposition to conclusions and recommendations that are based on scientific data and information).

In cases where there is a differing point of view preventing consensus and which is supported by scientific evidence, the dissenting view(s) will be documented in the final report, including the reasons why the opinion was not supported by the majority of participants.

DFO Regulatory Veterinarians: Provide the context of existing case definitions and regulatory requirements for PRV, HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome.

CFIA Regulatory Veterinarian: Provide guidance on control of emerging aquatic animal diseases for Canada.

Salmon Aquaculture Industry Licenced Veterinarians: Provide filed level contexts for these diseases.

Other Licenced aquatic veterinarians with subject matter expertise;

Certified Veterinary Pathologists: Provide laboratory level context for these diseases.

Independent third party Facilitator: with subject matter expertise (TBA)

All participants with the exception of the Rapporteur are expected to actively contribute to the discussions and deliverables.

Rapporteur

Appendix A.1 - Case definitions currently being used by the Fish Health Audit and Intelligence Program, Aquaculture Management Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Jaundice Syndrome

For the purpose of our audit farm-level diagnosis:

Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI)

For the purpose of audit farm-level diagnosis:

Appendix B: Agenda

Veterinarian Workshop - Review of case definitions for HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome in BC for the Fish Health Technical Working Group

January 28 to 29, 2020
9:00am – 5:00pm
Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown
1128 W Hastings St. (Room: Port of Singapore)

Meeting agenda - Day one - January 28th
Time Topic Supporting materials
9:00 – 9:20 am
  • Welcome and introductions
-
9:20 – 9:40 am
  • Review workshop objectives
  • Vet Workshop TOR
9:40 – 10:30 am
  • Review history and rationale for past HSMI diagnosis on BC farm audit data
  • Presentation:
DFO in-use Animal Health Centre
10:30 – 10:45 am Health break
10:45 – 12:00 pm
  • Consideration of international case definitions and diagnosis
  • Presentation:
Guest speaker(s) from other jurisdictions
  • Jed Varney (WA State)
  • East Coast Canada (TBC)
  • Norway (TBC)
Presentation:
  • Emiliano Di Cicco
12:00 – 12:45 pm Lunch
12:45 – 2:30 pm
  • Discussion:
  • Significance of sub- or pre-clinical signs of HSMI.
  • Need for clinically affected fish in case definition
  • REPORT: (5 min/group)
3 Breakout groups /all
2:30 – 3:00 pm
  • Review / Revise the criteria for fish-level HSMI diagnosis.
All
3:00 – 3:20 pm Health break
3:20 – 5:30 pm
  • Review / Revise the criteria for population-level HSMI diagnosis.
  • Recommendations for early detection
  • REPORT (5 min/group)
3 Breakout groups /all
5:30 pm
  • Meeting adjourn
-
Meeting agenda - Day two - January 29th
Time Topic Supporting materials
8:30 – 8:50 am
  • Welcome and day one summary
-
8:50 – 10:oo am
  • Review history and rationale for past Jaundice Syndrome diagnosis on BC farm audit data
  • Presentation:
DFO in-use Animal Health Centre
10:00 – 10:40 am
  • Review / Revise the criteria for fish-level Jaundice Syndrome diagnosis.
  • Report: 5 min/group
3 Breakout groups/all
10:40 – 11:00 am Health break
11:00 – 12:00 am
  • Review / Revise the criteria for population-level Jaundice Syndrome diagnosis.
  • Report: 5 min/group
  • Recommendations for early detection
3 Breakout groups/all
12:00 -1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 – 3:00 pm
  • Discussion:
  • Approaches to best detect disease in early stages on farms for the DFO enhanced monitoring program and recommend required testing.
All
3:00 – 4:30 pm
  • Summary of Recommendations
-
5:00 pm
  • Meeting adjourn
-

Appendix C - List of workshop participants

Participants – Veterinary Workshop on HSMI/Jaundice Case Definition

Facilitator: Ian Gardner - Health Management, UPEI

Rapporteurs: Laura Sitter – Field Veterinarian, DFO
Erika Anderson – Aquatic Biologist, DFO

Presenter Presentation titles (topics)
Zac Waddington DFO in the Field: Fish Health Audit and Intelligence Program (FHAIP)
Gary Marty History and Rationale for Diagnosis of Idiopathic Cardiopathy in BC Farm Audit Samples; Relation of BC PRV and HSMI/jaundice
Michael Pawlik What makes a good case definition?
Anne Berit-Olsen HSMI in Norway
Derek Price HSMI Case Definition in Chile; SISC Case Definition in Chile
Jed Varney PRV in Washington
Sonja Saksida (HSMI in Atlantic Canada)
Emiliano Di Cicco Analysis of the current DFO case definition for HSMI in BC and its strengths/weaknesses relative to those adopted in other jurisdictions; Analysis of the current DFO case definition for Jaundice/anemia in BC and its strengths/weaknesses relative to those adopted in other jurisdictions

Appendix E - DFO FHAIP SOP-08 for carcass selection
Aquaculture environmental management fish health section

Section: Sampling

Title: Carcass selection

Purpose:

To establish procedures for selecting carcasses of diagnostic quality during a fish health audit. The selection process increases the likelihood for the detection of pathogens and/or disease.

References:

Biosecurity Guidelines SOP AEO FH-BIO-01 (current version)

Responsibility:

Fish Health personnel

Definitions:

Disease:  A morbid process or condition of the body or its parts, having characteristic signs that distinguishes if from other morbid processes or conditions and from the normal state. Any state which results in a gradual degeneration of homeostasis.

FHAS: Fish Health Auditing and Surveillance.

Mortality Categories for facilities:

Environmental:  Total number of carcasses due to environmental conditions (e.g., low D.O., algal bloom, etc.)

Non-Performers: Total number of carcasses due to non-performers (e.g., starve-out, precocious males, etc.)

Old:  Total number of carcasses not of diagnostic quality (e.g., white gills and soft flesh, etc.)

Other:  Any other classification facility staff may use to categorize their mortalities.

Predator:  Total number of carcasses due to predation.

Silver:  Total number of fresh carcasses that still have silver skin/scales having died most recently with no apparent cause of death, or these may show signs of disease. Silver carcasses are most representative of the production population.

Equipment and materials required:

Safety precautions:

Always wear PPE and follow the directions of facility staff with regards to personal safety when working at a facility. This is especially important when on a sea cage system where many hazards exist – be aware of your surroundings

Policy:

All FHAS specimens, samples, sub-samples, etc. shall be handled, and contained with due care and shall not be used in such a way as to invite cross-contamination or degradation.

Instructions:

Appendix F - Executive summary of veterinary workshop

Veterinary workshop on HSMI and Jaundice Syndrome - Executive summary points
HSMI
Jaundice Syndrome
Recommendations
References

Appendix 7 - Supplemental materials

Readers are invited to visit the drop box site that has additional material related the FHTWG discussions including meeting agendas, meeting meetings, meeting materials including background documents submitted by DFO and CFIA representatives, and selected publications provided by members.

The drop box site can be found at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cw8reoq5u23m9rf/AAD_S8uiHgIgH8cLSQl30r6Ha?dl=0

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