Campbell River fish health laboratory, the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) has officially attained International Standards Organization (ISO) accreditation, meaning the lab is now certified to the worldwide standard, according to BC CAHS CEO Dr. Jim Powell.
“Four virus assays (detecting procedures) — including Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) — are now conducted to a recognized international standard,” Powell says. “This assures all salmon resource interests that our work is conducted to the highest standard and the results are accurate and defensible.”
It’s not that they’re doing anything differently in their testing than they were before, Powell says, it’s that their results are now considered incontrovertible.
“Anybody in the world can send us samples now and the results are defensible in court, meaning it’s been monitored, it’s been reviewed, and it’s been adjudicated by a third party,” Powell says.
The standards are such that samples being tested in the Campbell River lab are tested by more than one scientist within the lab – using the same machines to negate the possibility of the equipment being used being a factor in the results – but that they also are independently tested at another lab somewhere else in the world – and the same results are found.
“It also signifies that our staff has taken a certain amount of training and that training has been documented,” Powell says. “And the third aspect is that our management and quality systems have been tested, documented and approved. The public can trust that accurate and defensible detection of viruses such as PRV is available.”
“It’s only logical that when you report on viruses affecting salmon, that the procedures are done to the highest standard,” says BC CAHS lab manager Garnet Martens. “It took years of preparation, training and documentation to achieve ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation, but it’s worth it. Now our clients know that our results are reliable, relevant and trustworthy according to the international standard requirements.”
So what does that mean for “Joe Public,” who probably isn’t looking for a place to test fish?
Well, Powell says, with B.C. witnessing alarming declines in wild salmon stocks, everyone should be concerned and want to know that places like the CAHS is doing its part in the fight.
“Knowing that the tests we’re performing, the results we’re publishing, and most importantly, probably, that the fish that we’re testing that are going into their local waters are tested to that international standard for those viruses, that’s important,” Powell says. “What this gives us is confidence from the public that when we’re testing fish, we’re investigating that. That’s what we can do; that’s our part in the recovery of salmon. What we do well is look at fish health, and if we can solve a piece of that puzzle by producing the best quality information in fish health, we will.”
And that’s not all their doing in their attempts to get the best information available. The BC CAHS was also recently awarded a grant through the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund to create a wet lab facility here in Campbell River to allow them to eliminate another variable from their testing.
“It’ll be an on-land containment facility to test exactly what we’re talking about here: the impact of diseases on salmon recovery,” Powell says. “The tanks will be under controlled conditions so we’ll be able to eliminate the environment as a factor in what we’re trying to explore.”
Powell says there are a lot of things to be worked out still, including a possible location – other than the fact that it will be in Campbell River – “but we are hoping to cut the ribbon on it in June 2021.”