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USGS Salmon Disease Research

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Narrator:
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, Washington is a state-of-the-art laboratory operating on the cutting edge of fish science. Work at the lab falls into three broad categories, ecosystem studies, studies of invasive species, and studies of disease in fish. Recent public alarm about the possible discovery of the Infectious Salmon Anemia virus, in a few salmon off British Columbia, has drawn significant attention to the lab and its experts.

Jim:
This is a special purpose built facility that covers everything from improved diagnostic methods to control strategies such as vaccines using very high level or sophisticated molecular techniques for this kind of work. We’re also comparing strains of diseases to look at what’s called epidemiology to find out how viruses and bacterial pathogens are moving through the ecosystems. And we also have then high level quarantine facilities at both bio safety level 2 and bio safety level 3 in which we can study the effects of these diseases.

Narrator:
These bio safety labs are designed to keep the pathogens from escaping the lab - and none of the diseases being studied are a threat to human health.

Jim:
This laboratory has negative air pressure and special treatment for effluent and exhaust air as well as solid waste, allowing us to work safely with pathogens that are not present in this part of North America. We can then get predictive information from this research to help advise managers about the impacts of the introduction of such diseases in wild populations.

Jim:
Well here in the northwest Pacific Salmon are an iconic species and receive a lot of interest. They are also extraordinarily valuable commercially. We have now also an emerging aquaculture industry in parts of the world including in British Columbia and even here in the state of Washington. The interactions between aquatic animals both cultured and wild are very much closer than they are in the terrestrial wildlife side and so the linkages between aquaculture and wild populations are an important area for study. In addition we are trying to use hatcheries and aquaculture on the public sector to try to enhance or restore populations of fish throughout their historic range. And so the culturing of animals in captivity whether by private or public activity is often associated with an increase in disease. And the relationship between disease in the wild and disease in hatcheries and how these pathogens flow back and forth is of significant scientific and management interest.

Jim:
We raise our own pathogen free animals here. We have populations of pacific herring at our marine laboratory, of various Salmon species we have zebra fish stocks. And all of these animals are disease free allowing us then to infect these in experimental groups and to study the pathology as it occurs to improve our diagnostic methods. To look at the immune response of these animals and then to make predictive estimates for managers as to what the impacts of this type of disease would be as well as to provide improved diagnostic or control methods for managers to use at least in hatcheries.

Jim:
Recently reports from Canada suggested Infectious Salmon Anemia virus, an important disease affecting aqua-cultured Atlantic salmon in other parts of the world might be present here in the west, in British Columbia. This controversial research, was not being able to be replicated, but has caused the increased surveillance by state, federal and tribal fish health laboratories. Our facility will serve then to provide reference materials and to help develop diagnostic assays that we can use for the enhanced surveillance. If the virus is detected in US populations of Pacific Salmon then our Bio-Safety-Level-3 Laboratory or other facilities here can be used to assess the potential impact of this virus on native populations of Pacific Salmon. The existing question currently in British Columbia is, was the virus introduced from elsewhere in the world? Making it basically an invasive or novel pathogen that could have very large impacts on populations, or is this a virus that may have escaped detection and may be of less importance. And that is certainly not yet known, but it’s the kind of work that this laboratory is capable of doing and we will participate in this work as the story unfolds.

Details

Title: USGS Salmon Disease Research

Description:

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, Washington is a state-of-the-art laboratory operating on the cutting edge of fish science. Work at the lab falls into three broad categories, ecosystem studies, studies of invasive species, and studies of disease in fish. Recent public alarm about the possible discovery of the Infectious Salmon Anemia virus, in a few salmon off British Columbia, has drawn significant attention to the lab and its experts.

Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Date Taken: 12/1/2011

Length: 5:22

Video Producer: Stephen M. Wessells , U.S. Geological Survey


Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.

Additional Video Credits:

Produced and directed by:  Stephen M. Wessells

Written, filmed and edited by: Stephen M. Wessells

Narrated by:  Stephen M. Wessells

On-camera Scientific Expert:  James R. Winton, Chief, Fish Health Section, Western Fisheries Research Center, Seattle,  Washington.

Personnel Shown at WFRC:  Taylor Alton, Evi Emmenegger, Jolene Glenn, Lacey Hopper, Amelia Jones, Alison Kell, Jose Macia-Vicente, Rachel Thompson, Jake Scott. 

File Details:

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