After losing two recent lawsuits, anti-salmon farming activists in British Columbia have embarked on a concerted campaign to discredit aquaculture and fisheries scientists
By Fabien Dawson
BC’s anti-fish farming crowd, licking its wounds after two recent court rulings decimated their false claims that salmon farms are harming wild stocks, now want “facts to matter” when it comes to aquaculture.
But there is a big caveat.
The lobby wants only their “facts” to count and not those published in peer-reviewed scientific studies, nor those established by government agencies like the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), nor the decisions handed down by the courts.
Unable to challenge the science, activists embarked on a concerted campaign to discredit scientists, particularly DFO, to drive a wedge between them and Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, in order to keep the Trudeau Liberals on their side.
One, Alexandra Morton, claiming to be an independent biologist, whose claims have been repeatedly debunked, went so far as to suggest she would be the new boss of DFO by sowing institutional distrust of the regime. current.
Another leader of this science-deficit cabal is Tony Allard., a Vancouver-based businessman who chairs eco-activist groups like Wild Salmon Forever and Wild First.
Allard, in a recent editorial titled Who Can Minister Murray Trust? writes without evidence that DFO’s Aquaculture Management Branch has been “captured by the fish farming industry”.
Let’s take a quick fact check on his misrepresentations.
Allard Claims Canada is generally blessed with a competent and honest public service.
A worrying exception is the Aquaculture Management Branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), which for decades mismanaged science to craft policy outcomes that favored the industry it was supposed to regulate, rather than to carry out its mandate to protect and conserve wild fish on behalf of all Canadians.
Fact check: Allard has no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the reverse is true. Salmon farming is the most regulated industry in the agricultural sector in British Columbia and is comprehensively managed by the federal and provincial governments in all aspects of its operations. Further afield in British Columbia, the salmon farming industry’s high standards of environmental responsibility have been recognized by several independent global environmental certification systems. It is salmon farmers, not activists, who have been calling for federal aquaculture legislation for years to streamline regulatory and licensing processes. In 2020, the House of Commons recorded that at least 10 formal review processes and multiple scientific inquiries have concluded that BC salmon farms pose minimal risk to wild salmon populations across the country. Peaceful. In 2018, claims like those regurgitated by Allard sparked a $100,000 government investigation into alleged DFO collusion with industry. The investigation found no evidence of “questionable data or conflict of interest”, as claimed.
Allard Claims that in 2011, a DFO scientist, Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, identified PRV in British Columbia (BC) and found that it likely caused fatal disease in endangered chinook. But DFO refused to allow him to publish the research, citing objections from industry collaborators. DFO also refused to release its research under the Access to Information Act. The Information Commissioner, reviewing this denial, concluded that DFO had no legitimate reason to withhold this evidence of harm to wild Pacific salmon.
Fact check: First, PRV has been present in wild salmon in Pacific Northwest waters for a long time before salmon farming. All experimental exposures of PRV strain BC to Pacific and Atlantic salmon did not cause illness or mortality, according to the consensus of a wide range of fisheries scientists, including the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (SCCS). Second, Dr. Miller-Saunders’ inconclusive finding that PRV is responsible for heart problems and jaundice in wild salmon was disputed by the two other scientists involved in the study, Dr. Sonja Saksida, formerly of BC Center for Aquatic Health Sciences and Dr. Gary Marty, Senior Provincial Fish Pathologist at Abbotsford Animal Health Centre.
From the start of the study in 2011, which was initiated by Chinook breeder Creative Salmon in Tofino, all authors were clearly asked to agree to the content of the article before official publication. This consensus has yet to be reached and the study has not been peer-reviewed. Although the public release of the study has been delayed, key elements of the report have been in the public domain for a decade. Dr. Miller-Saunders, herself, went public on December 15, 2011, during the Cohen Commission’s investigative hearings, where she described Creative Salmon as “a very forward-thinking, cooperative and responsible company.” , adding “I didn’t discuss with them in advance exactly what I was testing there.
Allard’s assertion that DFO collaborated with industry researchers to produce faulty research in this case is false. What was flawed and what remains are the findings of Dr. Miller Saunders, according to several world-renowned fish health scientists. This questionable claim based on questionable science has led leading fish health experts in the Pacific Northwest to recently call on regulators to avoid changing policies until full investigations are carried out. such findings relate to organisms that are not important to fish health.
This so-called suppressed report “caused the public unnecessary concern…the general scientific consensus was that the northeast Pacific variant of PRV-1a is not a significant pathogen in Pacific salmonids, contrary to misinformation claiming the virus is a threat. to wild fish populations and resource sustainability,” fish health experts said.
Allard Claims than with DFO Aquaculture Management Branch Captured by the fish farming industry, Minister Murray faces one of the most important aquaculture decisions in British Columbia’s history: whether or not to renew fish farming licenses, all of which expire in June 2022. She must consider who in her ministry she can trust. The only option is for Minister Murray to make those licensing decisions herself because she surely knows what her predecessor Bernadette Jordan knew, which is that advice from DFO will be indistinguishable from the demands of fish farmers. Fortunately, Minister Murray has shown time and time again that she puts wild Pacific salmon first. British Columbians can remain confident that Minister Murray’s June 2022 decision will be the right one and a step forward in the Prime Minister’s mandate to remove open-net pen feedlots from coastal British Columbia. by 2025.
Fact check: There is no mandate to eliminate open-net salmon farms on the British Columbia coast by 2025. The mandate refers to the development of a plan to transition open-net salmon farms from ‘by 2025. The government has already made it clear that this transition does not necessarily mean pushing fish farmers out of the oceans into land-based operations, which Allard wants. Allard and his allies are pushing to remove salmon farms from British Columbia waters. It is their advice and suggested wording that are indistinguishable what is in the mandate letter. The Federal Court of Canada realized this when it ordered the government to reverse its decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, part of the Trudeau Liberals’ overall strategy to satisfy anti- fish farm, which threatened the party. to retain their votes. Courts here and across the border in Washington State have determined that salmon farming poses minimal risk to wild salmon. On the Canadian side, the Federal Court also denounced the lack of procedural fairness granted to fish farmers, pointing out that if there is collusion, it is between the government and the activists.
Allard Claims in a segment of his recent op-ed that “All of these claims turned out to be false.”
Fact check: This part is true, if Allard is talking about himself and his allies in the anti-fish farming lobby in British Columbia.
(File image courtesy of DFO shows work being done at one of its labs)