ATLANTIC HERRING: Are mass mortalities an extention of VHS in Labrador and Newfoundland?

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Thousands of Atlantic Herring have been dying along the Fundy shores of Nova Scotia. The characteristics of the mortalities and the widely dispersed areas, suggesting the possibility of of disease. This is currently being investigated by DFO. 

However, a recent notice from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggest an outbreak of Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) may have moved south. The full announcement follows:

Atlantic herring



As more Nova Scotia beaches are flooded with dead herring, cause remains mystery

‘What we see on the beach is just a partial window on what’s going on somewhere out on the water’

By Paul Palmeter, CBC News Posted: Dec 01, 2016 1:35 PM AT Last Updated: Dec 01, 2016 5:34 PM AT

Sightings like this on the shores around St. Marys Bay, N.S., have been common over the past week and a half.

Sightings like this on the shores around St. Marys Bay, N.S., have been common over the past week and a half. (Submitted by Joan Comeau)

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Waves full of dead herring have washed up on more and more beaches in Digby County, N.S., over the past week and a half as the mystery continues about what is killing the fish by the thousands. 

First discovered in St. Mary’s Bay on beaches near Weymouth, scores of herring carcasses have now turned up in the Annapolis Basin.

Ted Leighton, a retired veterinary pathologist, estimates he found 4,000 herring washed up behind his house in Smiths Cove.

“My beach is a direct recipient of a northeast wind, and things tend to pile up,” said Leighton. “So they were very dense on my beach.”


A Department of Fisheries and Oceans lab in Moncton, N.B., will try to determine what killed the fish. The department said results could take three weeks. Dead fish have also been sent for testing to the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I. 


Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) is a deadly infectious fish disease caused by viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV). It afflicts fish of over 50 species of freshwater and marine fish in several parts of the northern hemisphere. VHS is caused by viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV), different strains of which occur in different regions, and affect different species. There are no signs that the disease affects human health. VHS is also known as “Egtved disease,” and VHSV as “Egtved virus.”

Historically, VHS was associated mostly with freshwater salmonids in western Europe, documented as a pathogenic disease among cultured salmonids since the 1950s. Today it is still a major concern for many fish farms in Europe and is therefore being watched closely by the European Community Reference Laboratory for Fish Diseases. It was first discovered in the US in 1988 among salmon returning from the Pacific in Washington State. This North American genotype was identified as a distinct, more marine-stable strain than the European genotype. VHS has since been found afflicting marine fish in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Since 2005, massive die-offs have occurred among a wide variety of freshwater species in the Great Lakes region of North America.

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