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Farm accelerates harvest in response to trouble with sick salmon

The island’s fish farm near Fort Ward has a major case of sick salmon.

The fish farm in Rich Passage that runs between Bainbridge Island and Clam Bay on the Kitsap Peninsula has detected the presence of Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) in its stock of Atlantic salmon.

In response to the outbreak, the farm, owned by Icicle Seafoods, has accelerated its harvesting, according to a press release from the company.

“They are doing what they would normally do with the fish, but they are doing it earlier,” said Paul Queary, a spokesman for Icicle. “The fish are being harvested and going into their normal production cycle.”

Employees at the farm began noticing a change in the behavior of the fish in early spring. Many of the fish were dying. And by May 9, after lab testing, the company had confirmed that the fish were infected with IHN.

Queary said that as soon as they can harvest the current crop of fish, they can clean the nets and restock the farm.

While the virus is not harmful to humans, it can threaten production in aquaculture farms.

“The virus exists in wild fish throughout the region, but it’s not harmful to humans,” Queary said. “The principle risk is to the farming operation.”

The virus is passed through various fish species such as salmon, trout and herring that are small enough to swim through the farm’s nets. It can cause hemorrhaging, abdominal distention, uncommon behavior and ultimately death.

Over time, salmon native to Pacific waters have built up a better resistance to the virus. However, the Atlantic salmon that Icicle raises at its Rich Passage farm do not share this resistance.

This is the first outbreak of IHN at the farm in Rich Passage. The IHN virus has been detected in other Puget Sound aquaculture farms in the past. The virus was first documented affecting fish in the area in the 1950s.

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