Virus kills tons of sardines off Vancouver Island

Posted: Tuesday, March 05, 2002

VICTORIA, B.C. (AP) -- Tons of dead Pacific sardines are floating in Quatsino Sound on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island -- the victims of a virus.

Frozen samples sent to the federal Fisheries Department's biological station in Nanaimo, British Columbia, have tested positive for viral haemorragic septicemia (VHS), fish pathologist Dorothee Kieser said Monday.

Kieser said the physical appearance of the fish also conformed to the expected results of VHS, which occurs naturally in the environment.

More samples will be tested.

The virus was responsible for a large die-off of sardines in 1999 off the north end of Vancouver Island and in some mainland inlets, she said. A smaller number of sardines was killed last year.

Ron Kehl, Fisheries Department spokesman in Port Alberni, B.C., said it is difficult to know how many fish have been killed but ''a number of (metric tons) probably died.'' A metric ton is about 2,205 pounds.

British Columbia is the northern end of the Pacific sardine migratory route, with California to the south. In the early 1900s, sardines played an important role in the province's fishing industry.

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