Gray Aqua Farm in NL Under Quarantine

June 3, 2013

A Gray Aqua salmon farm on Newfoundland's south coast is under quarantine as officials test for infection.

The Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association confirmed on Monday that infectious salmon anemia is suspected at the farm in Hermitage Bay.

If confirmed, it would be the third outbreak in Newfoundland in less than a year.

Cyr Couturier, the association's executive director, said it's preparing for a cull of up to a half a million fish.

"We do presume that it is going to come back positive, and so efforts are being made to see what we can do in terms of de-population. So as soon at that cull is ordered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, then we will be ready to go," he said.

Couturier said the industry expects a decision later this week.

Industry facing challenges

Couturier said the south coast is the hub of the province's salmon farming, which has produced hundreds of jobs and revived about a dozen communities.

"It's been growing for the last 30 years, and in the last decade, really, we've grown to an industry that is worth almost $200 million to the rural economy of Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

But the industry does face some new challenges.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans recently confirmed that some salmon caught at the mouth of the Garnish River on the Burin Peninsula escaped from an aquaculture farm.

Critics fear that type of incident could threaten wild salmon populations.

The industry is also fighting a disease problem.

Infectious salmon anemia was confirmed at a Gray Aqua site near Conne River in July 2012, which led federal officials to order the destruction of hundreds of thousands of salmon at the site.

In December 2012, more fish were destroyed after another outbreak at a Cooke Aquaculture facility in Hermitage Bay.

While scientists have said those infected fish are safe to eat, the CFIA has not approved their sale in stores.