HomeFeaturesYellow Salmon: Alexandra Morton Asks For Fishermen's Help

Yellow Salmon: Alexandra Morton Asks For Fishermen’s Help

Recently, we spoke with Alexandra Morton, and she asked if we could help her if we spot any yellow salmon. She was kind enough to give us the following information. If you think you spot one of these, she asks to follow the instructions at the end. If you don’t know who Alexandra Morton is, she’s a Canadian American marine biologist that since the 90’s has been focusing on the impact of fish farming on Canadian wild salmon.

UPDATE: since the discussion, Alexandra released a video which can be seen at the end of this article.

IFM: Alexandra, What are yellow salmon?

Alexandra Morton: Yellow salmon are appearing along the coast and I am taking samples of these fish to learn whether they are infected with the virus PRV (piscine orthoreovirus), and if the virus is causing disease in these fish.

The reason that I suspect this yellowing is caused by PRV is because of a paper published by DFO, Pacific Salmon Foundation, and other scientists who report that PRV appears to cause jaundice (yellowing) in Chinook salmon.  They report the virus gets into the salmon’s red blood cells, where it reproduces until the cell explodes en masse.  

The fish’s liver cannot handle all the haemoglobin released from the ruptured blood cells, and as it fails, it turns yellow and the fish gradually goes jaundice.

The loss of blood cells makes the fish anaemic and so its gills go pale before it dies – note the yellow liver.

IFM: Alexandra, can you provide some photos?

Alexandra Morton: Yes, please use these as reference.

Some are dark yellow

Some have a faint yellow line


A secondary symptom is very pale gills

Yellow sockeye

Yellow chum

IFM: What should people do if they suspect they find a yellow salmon?

Alexandra Morton: Please take several pictures of whole fish and the gills then:

  1. Contact me via facebook or email – [email protected]
  2. Send me the pictures
  3. Let me know how many there were, had the fish spawned, was it dead or alive

I will try to get to this location to take samples. It is very hard to catch up with sick fish, because the predators generally get them before I do, so I am asking for your help.

IFM: Can you please provide some background on PRV?

Alexandra Morton: Most farm salmon in BC are infected with piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV. I have confirmed this by testing hundreds of BC farm salmon in markets and the industry now admits to it.  Here’s some articles..

Some scientists in DFO report the virus is not a risk to wild salmon.

Others report it is causing serious disease.

I found that wild salmon swimming among the farms are more infected than salmon far from farms.

Washington State banned farm salmon infected with PRV, to protect wild salmon and the industry has been unable to find any clean fish to restock their farms with.

IFM: Where does the DFO stand on this?

Alexandra Morton: The ‘Namgis and I recently won lawsuits against the Minister of Fisheries on this issue, but DFO still refuses to screen farm salmon for PRV and allows PRV-infected fish to be transferred from the farm hatcheries into the farms, where the virus passes through the nets into the ocean where the wild salmon are. Here are links..

‘Namgis: http://www.namgis.bc.ca/news-items/dfo-fails-to-protect-salmon-again/

Morton: https://www.ecojustice.ca/pressrelease/new-prv-policy-leaves-wild-salmon-at-risk/

IFM: Where are we now?

Alexandra Morton: When scientists in DFO disagree whether a virus shedding from millions of farm salmon in pens along every wild salmon migration route in southern BC is killing wild salmon or not, I think we have to step in do the science ourselves. The stakes are too high for wild salmon to leave this issue unresolved.

I just need to find as many yellow salmon as I can and so I am turning to you for help.

Thank you,

Alexandra Morton


[email protected]


IFM: Thank you, Alexandra.

UPDATE: On October 11th, 2019, Alexandra Morton released this video…

Letter to Rebecca Reid Oct 11 2019 from Alexandra Morton on Vimeo.


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