Whether this would be sufficient to prop up the pathetic NASDAQ is anybody's guess, but it's light, no matter how dim, at the end of the tunnel.

Virus Stalks Salmon as World Gives Up Beef
Fishy Alternative

Just as the fishing industry prepared to cash in on rising demand for its products, a virus has forced Maine aquaculturists to kill off thousands of salmon. Seeing the carnage wrought by foot-and-mouth disease, state officials worry the bug—infectious salmon anemia—can't be stopped from sickening wild fish as well as farmed ones and affecting endangered species that are trying to make a comeback.

Harmless to humans, the disease was confirmed in a fish farm off the coast of northern Maine in late March. Farm operators killed 45,000 healthy salmon in the cages as a precautionary measure.

The illness was first discovered in Norway in 1984, then seen again Canada in 1995. Over the last few years Canadian and Scottish fish farmers have been hard hit, forced to kill off millions of their salmon. There's no cure for the plague, but it appears to crop up most frequently in factory farm fishpens where the fish are densely packed together. As with foot-and-mouth, workers and visitors must walk through an iodine solution to cleanse their shoes.

The virus is only one worry for fish farmers. A mass of slimy green algae has taken over the sea off the southern part of Norway and is threatening thousands of tons of salmon. Officials there say the algae suffocates the fish, rendering them inedible. Norway, a leading producer of Atlantic salmon, has lost some 700 tons of the fish so far. That figure could jump if the slippery weed slithers further along the Atlantic coast. A similar kind of algae claimed 350 tons of salmon in 1998 and 800 tons of strangled fish in 1988.

To get away from the killer growth, fishermen are dragging their farms—in reality huge nets that can hold thousands of fish—up into narrow fjords, where they hope the algae won't follow.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is anxiously hoping foot-and-mouth can be kept from infecting the country's livestock. The Department of Agriculture wants farms to restrict visitors and vehicles. In Maine, the state has set up a task force to plan for the disease. Already Maine farmers are posting signs warning tourists of the dangers of foot-and-mouth, and in certain instances visitors must walk through a disinfectant bath to sterilize their shoes. One popular petting zoo, Smiling Hill Farm, announced it would shut down for the summer—at a loss of $250,000 from an expected 100,000 visitors. Pig farmers in North Carolina, where an outbreak was feared, are keeping a watchful eye on their operations.

In Great Britain, where the unctuous prime minister Tony Blair is riding high in the polls despite his government's inability to bring the disease under control, a staggering 2 million animals await slaughter.

Reports over the weekend suggested that, contrary to Blair's cheery pronouncements, foot-and-mouth is continuing to spread, with more cases in the Lake District—England's prime tourist area—and on the Scottish border. The tourist industry, which outstrips agriculture in terms of economic value, is in absolute shambles. Despite reduced air fares, travelers don't want to venture into a countryside where they can see dead animals lying in the fields, smell them rotting as they await disposal, or whiff the smoke of them from smoldering pyres.

The disease doesn't harm humans and usually doesn't kill animals, but instead reduces the amount of their meat. The wholesale slaughter becomes especially awful in light of a UN report released Monday, which estimated that 28 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are facing famine this year. The Federal Accounting Office says reviving African food production would cost $140 million—a pittance compared to the money spent slaughtering sheep and cattle in Britain.

Additional reporting: Rouven Gueissaz and Adam Gray

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