A virus outbreak has killed 60,000 juvenile steelhead at Robertson Creek Hatchery and prompted the involvement of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has confirmed that there was an outbreak of Infectious Haematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) virus at the Robertson Creek Hatchery.
The virus was diagnosed in January after extensive laboratory testing, said Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) spokesperson Carrie Mishima, who only responded to questions from the News by e-mail.
The virus has infected more than 60,000 juvenile steelhead at the hatchery, which have since been destroyed, officials said.
Hatchery staff became aware of the outbreak after noticing higher than normal mortalities in juvenile steelhead. Staff noticed signs of the virus and initiated lab tests.
According to the fisheries department, IHN is a naturally occurring pathogen in wild fish throughout the Pacific West Coast from Alaska to California.
IHN poses no risk to humans but it can spread quickly and has a 100 per cent mortality rate if a fish population becomes infected.
The virus is known to exist in Great Central Lake where the hatchery draws its water supplies. Lab tests identified the virus as the endemic, naturally occurring strain that is commonly found in Pacific sockeye.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was called because IHN is a reportable disease.
Staff have isolated the area where the infected fish were being held, and are cleaning and disinfecting the area.
Measures have also been put in place to control the movement of staff and fish in and out of the hatchery.
Cleanup will be completed when the CFIA is satisfied that the process has met their requirements.