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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

October 21, 2011 at 3:31 PM

U.S. Senate approved investigation and response plan for virus outbreak in British Columbia salmon

It didn’t take long for the U.S. Senate to back an investigation into the potentially deadly salmon virus that appeared in two juvenile salmon in British Columbia.

Here is a press release that came out of Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) office today (Oct. 21):

During a long session that went into the early morning hours, the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan amendment authored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that calls for an investigation and rapid response plan to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly salmon virus.

The 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).

The amendment, introduced October 19th to the pending appropriations bill (H.R. 2112), calls on the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to evaluate the risk the virus could have on wild salmon off West Coast and Alaskan waters, and to develop a plan to address this emerging threat. The minibus appropriations bill – including Cantwell’s accepted amendment – is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate during the week of October 31.

“We thought it was very important that this amendment pass tonight because scientists are calling it a disease emergency. That is, that the Pacific Northwest wild salmon might be threatened by a virus that has already decimated fish farm salmon from around the world,” Cantwell said on the Senate floor. Watch a video of her delivering her remarks here. “We cannot risk having this impact the Pacific Northwest wild salmon.”

“It’s tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars as it relates to our economy. …We need an action plan immediately and we need to make sure that we are formulating a rapid response to what to do if we do detect that this virus is spreading with the potential impact that we’ve seen in other areas.”

Cantwell’s complete remarks as delivered follow:

Madame President.

In that en bloc group of amendments was an important Amendment 893 that was sponsored by my colleagues from the Northwest, obviously myself, Senator Murray, Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein.

And we thought it was very important that this amendment pass tonight because scientists are calling it a disease emergency. That is that the Pacific Northwest wild salmon might be threatened by a virus that has already decimated fish farm salmon from around the world.

So we want to see, first of all, important scientific questions answered about the impacts of this virus and the threat that they pose to Pacific Northwest salmon.

Second, we want to make sure there is an aggressive management plan and an effective rapid response plan to deal with the threat of this virus.

And third we want to make sure that we are protecting wild salmon and the important economy that goes with it.

I know many people know the Northwest as known for a healthy salmon population but this salmon population is also an economy for us. It’s tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars as it relates to our economy.

So being able to detect this virus and make sure that we are assessing the potential threat to the wild salmon population is something that we want to see happen immediately.

This makes sure that the task force, that is a joint task force already in place between National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), works effectively in a very short time period to make sure that we are getting this accurate assessment.

As I mentioned this virus in the farm fish population around the world, in Chile and other places, has decimated salmon. We cannot risk having this impact the Pacific Northwest wild salmon.

So we need answers quickly from the scientific community. We need an action plan immediately. And we need to make sure that we are formulating a rapid response for what to do if we do detect this virus is spreading with the potential impact that we’ve seen in other areas.

So I thank my colleagues for making sure that this amendment is passed tonight. I know that Senator Murkowski had planned earlier to talk about this and I want to thank Senator Hutchinson from Texas for helping us move this along in the process.

I hope now as we move this legislation that we will also get the cooperation from NOAA and Secretary Lubchenco and others to make sure that we are responding very rapidly to this very, very serious, what people have called the scientific need, to get these questions answered as soon as possible.

I thank the President and I yield the floor.

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