There’s now only one OIE (World Organization for Animal Health)-designated reference lab in the world for ISA testing, and it ain’t in Canada.
As of today, the OIE has pulled its reference designation for Fred Kibenge’s lab at the Atlantic Veterinary College on Prince Edward Island, leaving Dr. Knut Falk’s lab at the National Veterinary Institute in Norway as the only OIE-designated reference lab in the world for Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA).
Today, Positive Aquaculture Awareness is the first to break this news and we are expecting a cry of “foul” will soon erupt from Alexandra Morton and her followers. You see, her fringe group already feels that there is a vast global conspiracy working against Morton and her “work.” No doubt this conspiracy will now be expanded to include the respected World Organization for Animal Health — whose credibility Morton herself had been more than happy to exploit when it may have worked in her favour. As the facts continue to pile up against Morton’s claims, the more ridiculous her conspiracy theories will become.
The OIE’s decision has been a long time coming. Here’s the background.
Back in October 2011, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada held a press conference to announce it had found a “lethal Atlantic virus found in a Pacific salmon.”
Anti-salmon farming activist, Alexandra Morton and statistician Rick Routledge, eagerly announced they had “found” a foreign fish virus called Infectious Salmon Anemia ISA virus in wild salmon. This finding sparked a national controversy — one reason being the researchers did not immediately report the suspect finding to the Canada Food Inspection Agency, which is required by law.
Of course, they went to the media first.
The lab that “found” the ISA virus was the Atlantic Veterinary College located at the University of Prince Edward Island. The lab has been criticized in the past for producing an abnormal number of “false positive” test results. But that didn’t stop the activist, the statistician, the lab technician (Fred Kibenge), and Simon Fraser University boldly stating they had confirmed the finding.
Canada and the USA responded responsibly, launching massive screening and testing programs for wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Since then, thousands of salmon in the Pacific Northwest have been tested specifically for ISA virus by U.S. and Canadian researchers. All tests have shown no evidence of the ISA virus. We’re pretty confident in stating that if you test thousands of fish for a virus and find nothing, that means there’s no virus.
But the story doesn’t end there. In November 2012 the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) quietly announced:
“After different Member Countries pointed out questionable diagnostic results emanating from an OIE Reference Laboratory for Infectious Salmon Anaemia located at Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) in Canada, the OIE decided to conduct an audit of the Reference Laboratory with independent OIE experts from 31 July to 2 August 2012. Conclusions of the audit were unfavourable and showed that a series of weaknesses in the system have a direct impact on the quality of diagnoses conducted by the OIE Reference Laboratory at AVC.”
Following OIE’s standard procedure, the conclusions of the audit were reported to OIE elected governing bodies: the Aquatic Animal Commission and the Council, and finally the World Assembly of Delegates in May 2013.
The result was just published: the Atlantic Veterinary College has lost its OIE Reference Laboratory designation.
In other words, the AVC lab fails at fish health diagnostics, which is pretty much a main requirement of the OIE.
The National Veterinary Institute located in Norway is now the only OIE Reference Laboratory for ISA virus.
Alexandra Morton has now lost her favourite “false positive” laboratory. She has been terminated from the Association of Professional Biologists. She has been told by Simon Fraser University to stop demanding people to call her “Doctor Morton”.
It’s been a bad year for the Chicken Little of Echo Bay.
*News Update June 21, 2013
Today, Seafood Intelligence announced that they have received confirmation from the OIE that the Atlantic Veterinary College, run by Fred Kibenge, has been stripped of its OIE Reference Lab classification:
“In May 2013 The World Assembly of national Delegates of the OIE (178 countries) approved by unanimity the delisting of the OIE Reference Laboratory for Infectious Salmon Anaemia located at Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) in Canada on the basis of the results of the OIE audit conducted with independent experts from 31 July to 2 August 2012.”