Category Archives: Salmon in the headlines

New York Times and others reporting on ISA issue and Cohen Commission special hearings

"DFO" -- Disconnected Forever On.

The New York Times ran an article late yesterday on the continued hearings into Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) at the Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines.

Canada Holds Hearings on Suspected Virus in Salmon

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The fate of wild salmon is a sensitive topic in the Pacific Northwest and arguments often end up in court in the United States, whether over threats to endangered fish by hydroelectric dams or sea lions swallowing them along their migration routes.

But on Thursday, a new and particularly bitter dispute began playing out in a very different kind of judicial venue across the Canadian border: a provincial Supreme Court justice held a hearing into questions of whether a potentially lethal virus had been detected in wild Pacific salmon — and whether the Canadian government was responding adequately.

The virus, infectious salmon anemia, has devastated farmed Atlantic salmon stocks in Chile and elsewhere. Some conservationists and scientists have long worried that the virus would spread from farmed fish to wild ones. Those fears escalated in October, when opponents of British Columbia’s ambitious farmed Atlantic salmon program, which is heavily promoted by the government, presented lab results they said showed an asymptomatic form of the virus in wild Pacific salmon.

Several more reports of the virus have emerged in the past two months, including a draft paper suggesting that the virus was detected as early as 2002 but not revealed by the government, further angering farming opponents.

The developments have prompted passionate debate on both sides of the border, with reaction veering from accusations that the Canadian government is covering up evidence of the disease to claims by Canadian officials that the reports are based on poor science.

The most combative exchanges occurred during testimony by Kristina Miller, the head of molecular genetics for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans laboratory at Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. While previous reports of the virus had surfaced from sources outside the Canadian government, only to have Canadian officials question them, Dr. Miller testified that she also had received positive results when she tested for the virus, known as I.S.A. She said that when she reported her work to a superior last month, she was asked why she had conducted it at all.

“Nobody in the department talked to me about disease or I.S.A. after that,” Dr. Miller testified. At one point, she said she was frustrated at what she called “flippant dismissal of pathogens” that could be harmful.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is charged with promoting aquaculture but also with protecting wild fish, a dual mission that some critics say creates conflicts. Agency officials are scheduled to testify in the next two days…

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It doesn’t only create “conflicts”; it is a fundamental “conflict of interest”.

Some suggest that “conflict of interest” means: “We can define a conflict of interest as a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional.

Enter government agency in there that is providing massive amounts of funding (over $100 million in recent years) to the salmon farming industry in Canada — and yet this week, DFO is starting the process of handing out pink slips to over 400 employees, mainly in the science and conservation sectors.

Is there a disconnect here?

The central mandate of the publicly funded Department of Fisheries and Ocean is “conservation” of wild fish populations, and yet it is now laying many people off that are in fact key in that function — all because of apparent “budget cuts”.

Yet… yet… how many employees would the $100 million or so given to the salmon farming industry in recent years, which most certainly does not play a role in “conserving” wild populations — how many employees would that support?

Government cover up coming to light at Cohen Commission today…? Check that: this has been a cover up!

Social media at work is suggesting that the government has indeed been involved in a cover up of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) on BC’s coast.

The Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye has convened a couple of days of special hearings, which are underway right now.

On the stand this morning was Dr. Kristi Miller the DFO scientist (head of Molecular Genetics Laboratory at DFO Nanaimo) who has had her research muzzled by the Privy Council Office of the Prime Minister.

Salmon farming on the hot seat at Cohen Commission

Today, as being reported on different social media circles, here are some quotes:

Dr Miller is blowing the whistle big time…

An email from a few days ago is marked as Exhibit #2055 – Dr Miller explains the ISA testing she’s been carrying out. “It’s an important question to find out how long ISA has been here,” says Dr Miller. “We went back to our samples from 1984 and we found that we could amplify PCR products in 1986 and thereafter. The patterns were very similar to now – with positives for ISA. ISA has been here for at least 25 years

“I had a meeting with the BC Salmon Farmers Association,” says Dr Miller. “But at the very last minute they took Atlantic farmed salmon out of the testing. The BCSFA did not want their farmed Atlantic salmon to be tested”.Dr Miller describes the Government’s testing of farmed salmon and asked to test farmed Atlantic salmon but Dr Miller was only allowed to sample for parvovirus NOT ISA. And the samples that were given were useless as the samples were degraded…

Dr Miller testifies that her lab only received half the funding her lab needs

Mr Taylor asks Dr Miller about ISA being in BC since at least 1986. “Given those 1986 samples showed divergence it would suggest it has been here longer,” says Dr Miller.

“There was a threat that I could lose samples that I rely on for my genomic profiling,” says Dr Miller. She was basically threatend by the Government that her research would be closed down and blocked for testing for ISA.

Dr Miller refers to a jaundice-project with Creative Salmon in Clayoquot Sound – she tested their farmed chinook salmon and we identified ISA-positive farmed salmon (sampled last Winter and close to market size). ISA in farmed salmon in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve!!!

Kristi [Miller] tested a Chinook farm at Creative Salmon farms and they tested positive for ISA on that farm. These fish were also jaundice. So far they are the only company willing to give them samples. Question from commission: You testified earlier saying that the farms would give you samples. Kristi- Yes I had a meeting with BC salmon farmers association and we agreed upon a proposal that I would test their salmon but at the last moment they pulled this from the proposal and said we could not test any of their fish.

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After lunch Greg McDade, lawyer for Alex Morton and others will be questioning government scientists for 15 minutes — approximately 1:45 this afternoon.

Will be interesting to see what media stories come out of this tonight and tomorrow…

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Update: 2 pm Thursday.

CBC is apparently already on it:

Salmon virus in B.C. for decades, say biologists

Department of Fisheries (DFO) biologists have told a federal inquiry that fish samples, dating back more than two decades have tested positive for a potentially lethal wild sockeye fish virus — but that fact wasn’t publicly reported.

Dr. Kristi Miller, the head of molecular genetics for DFO in Nanaimo, told the Cohen Commission on Thursday that frozen samples dating back to 1986 have been tested, and show infectious salmon anemia (ISA) has been in B.C. waters for at least 25 years.

The public inquiry into the decline of the Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks was extended for three extra days after ISA was detected in wild B.C. salmon two months ago by Simon Fraser University Prof. Rick Routledge.

That revelation put the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and B.C.’s fish farming industry on high alert, but those results couldn’t be confirmed and government scientists announced earlier this month that extensive testing came up negative.

The alleged presence of ISA in B.C. salmon stocks is controversial because the virus had never before been found in salmon off B.C.’s coast, either in the Atlantic species that are farmed in ocean pens or in B.C.’s indigenous wild salmon.

The virus is known to be devastating to farmed Atlantic salmon and opponents of the fish farm industry have suggested farmed fish could spread ISA to wild stocks, with catastrophic results.

The virus has been linked to the destruction of the salmon farming industry in Chile and Europe.

The crisis has prompted the Canada Food Inspection Agency to develop a regular surveillance program for ISA, that is expected to be in place as early as next spring.

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Please stay posted for SPIN Machine coming from DFO, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and BC Salmon Farmer’s Association… that should be hitting the airwaves any time soon.

See if DFO and the CFIA have another mis-guided, disconnect, press conference…

Editorial: It’s not the time to gut [Department of] Fisheries

Here’s an editorial from the Victoria, BC Times Colonist the other day:

Editorial: It’s not the time to gut Fisheries

With declining salmon stocks and concerns about fish farms and the impact of climate change, we are going to need to more knowledge than ever before. This is not the time for a dumbing-down of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Yet the federal government has sent letters to 400 DFO employees, including about 200 scientists, warning them that they could be affected by a pending “workforce adjustment,” the usual term for a large-scale termination of employees.

In other words, the government is looking to get rid of some of its experts, just when they will be needed the most. Remarkably, officials within the department insist that it is still determined to have strong fisheries research — research that would be more difficult to complete without enough staff.

The department’s stated mission is to deliver safe and accessible waterways, healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. It will be guided, it says, “by the principles of sound scientific knowledge and effective management.”

The federal government pledged in the 2011 budget to cut costs in the department through a strategic review, and further cuts might be coming next year. The government wants to find another $4 billion to cut from its annual expenditures.

It would be foolish to think that governments exist to provide employment, or to provide services that are not really needed. It is just as foolish, however, to believe that governments can keep cutting bodies and slashing spending in a desperate attempt to keep taxes low.

There is a rational limit to cutting; beyond that point, ideology is being allowed to prevail over common sense and effective, efficient government.

We could mention Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s use of a government helicopter to save him a short commute by car, or Treasury Board president Tony Clement’s liberal spending on a single Ontario electoral district under the guise of G8 security needs. But those would be cheap shots.

Instead, we will note that the Cohen Commission, which was set up to examine the reasons for the decline of the Fraser River sockeye salmon, is widely expected to call for more research and more information — not less.

The government might believe that it can rely on independent researchers and laboratories, but that would be wishful thinking. For consistent, objective research, the federal government needs to set the standard.

If it guts its research offices, it would be hard to restore them when common sense returns. The top scientists would have moved on — and being logical thinkers, they would not risk giving up their new roles to go back to a department that is little more than a political football.

This is a critical time for our oceans — a time when smart people should be cherished, not shown the door.

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It’s often a curious thing when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is everyone’s whipping puppy on many fronts, then news of layoffs come and folks start saying: “no, no, no… not layoffs… we need those employees.”

Sure brutal timing for the folks getting layoff notices… nothing like that pink slip coming a couple weeks before Christmas. Way to go Grinch Harper.

I suppose the swifter kick in the nether regions comes on top of stories like this today from the Globe and Mail:

MacKay spent $1,450 a night while staff settled for $275 hotel rooms

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is accusing Defence Minister Peter MacKay of living like a king while attending conferences in Europe.

The watchdog group has uncovered hotel bills through access-to-information laws that show the minister spent $1,452 a night for a two-night stay at a luxury hotel in Munich and $770 a night for three nights in Istanbul, Turkey.

So MacKay is apparently getting picked up by rescue helicopters from posh fishing lodges on the taxpayer bill, and the Conservative government is sprucing up the Muskoga region with $50 million spent building gazebos and however much spent on building a fake lake for a G-20 summit, and the other excesses in Conservative MP Tony Clement’s riding.

I can simply add on here that I’ve attended enough ‘fisheries-related’ meetings where DFO will arrive with upwards of fifteen staff members, which ends out being half of what was already attending the meeting from other organizations. So a meeting of say thirty representatives all of a sudden balloons to forty-five when DFO arrives. Sometimes DFO folks have taken two flights by jet, rented a car, got hotel rooms, etc. so that the numbers can simply be ballooned.

It often makes little sense — and they continue to do it, even though it’s been suggested many times that there really isn’t that much need for that many Department employees at some of these meetings. And, in fact, it can take away from the productivity of the meeting. Simply running through introductions ends out taking more time then required.

So, yes, very unfortunate for those receiving pink slips — Yet, at the same time just more disconnection notices within the civil service of Canada and Provinces, and complete disconnect amongst politicians.

Why not cut the bonuses and salary increases of senior bureaucrats, cut down their travel budgets and expenses and keep some scientists and conservation staff working…

Plus, senior DFO bureaucrats seem to have a hard time listening to their scientists in the first place… look no further then the North Atlantic Cod collapse, or… or…

Which drugs do the DFO and Canadian Food Inspection Agency need for their premature communication issue? (hairtrigger problems anyone?)

As things lead up to the special hearings at the Cohen Commission in to Fraser sockeye declines this week, the heat is turned up…

More information suggesting that Canada and BC’s regulations to protect BC’s and the North Pacific’s wild salmon stocks from Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) — are not good enough.

As per usual, it’s taking ex-DFO and ex-Provincial scientists to blow the whistle… because, as pointed out in the previous post, there are most likely many that don’t want to sacrifice their healthy public servant wages and pensions by speaking out and facing repercussions?

Here’s an article out of Victoria, BC’s Times Colonist today, as well as the leaked report from the ex-Provincial government scientist — a report which has been submitted to the Cohen Commission.

Canada’s fish health regulations are not stringent enough to prevent viruses from being imported to West Coast fish farms on Atlantic salmon eggs, says a former high-level provincial government fisheries biologist.Sally Goldes, fish health unit section head at the B.C. Environment Ministry for 17 years, has submitted a paper to the Cohen Commission on the decline of Fraser River sockeye that says iodine treatment of eggs and the testing of overseas providers of salmon eggs – Canada’s defence against disease transmission – are inadequate…

…”The data – [inadequate sample sizes, ineffectiveness of iodine disinfection, etc.] suggests that the current Canada Fish Health Protection Rules do not provide a high level of regulatory security against the introduction of ISAV into British Columbia,” the paper concludes.

“It is important to remember that iodine disinfection does not kill ISAV present inside the egg and it is unknown whether ISAV is in this location.”

Iodine treatment is designed to rid egg surfaces of bacteria.

This sort of sounds like thinking that would suggest that if you give your newborn baby a bath that it won’t come down with infections or illness…

Isn’t this something that would have been learned in every other place that farmed salmon have had ISA breakouts?

Guess not… the article continues:

Salmon farms in B.C. import Atlantic salmon eggs from such countries as Britain, the U.S. and Iceland.

The virus has devastated fish farms in Chile and Norway and is also present in Atlantic Canada.

She is concerned ISA could be introduced to B.C. waters and spread to already stressed wild salmon populations.

“If you really look closely at the regulations, from a scientific basis, there is not the high degree of protection that the government, and particularly DFO, states that they have,” Goldes said. “It’s an issue of trust.”

Hmmm, one could maybe do a poll of Canadians and ask how much trust they have in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — and maybe even the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in this particular case.

Let’s just say it’s probably at an all time low.

Especially, after it came clear that the Food Inspection Agency mounted a big communications campaign with Canada’s trade partners, after the first reported ISA findings in wild Pacific salmon — as opposed to the Canadian public.

And now, both DFO and the CFIA mount denial campaigns.

The problem with denial campaigns is that if you get proven wrong, and in fact are not only proven wrong in your denials and that you held the responsibility in the first place — it’s sort of like a double whammy.

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The article continues:

“I think DFO and CFIA have a lot more work to do. I think that press conference was entirely premature,” she said.

[nothing like premature communication]

“The problem is that DFO has a dual mandate for aquaculture and wild fish, and the decisions are political.”

Amen to that Ms. Goldes — as the old cliche goes: you hit the nail on the head…

And as we’ll all find out soon enough, DFO and the CFIA most likely missed the nail head completely and hit their thumbs… and if it does turn out that they are denying something that is in fact true (e.g. ISA is in wild Pacific salmon — and that better safeguards needed to be in place, and should be in place) — then they’re should be several ‘nail’ heads rolling in the circle of civil servants and Ministers, and deputy ministers, and assistant deputy ministers.

The decisions are political is always one to keep in mind… look no further then Harper’s government/Canada’s removal from the Kyoto protocol (a vote of confidence for oil and gas companies and pipeline companies). Or the current situation in the northern Ontario First Nation community of Attawapiskat — shameful

The federal government can spend $50 million+ on frigging gazebos for 2-3 days of meetings in Ontario’s cottage country, build a fake lake (at what coast?), and so on and then set out on trying to shame a northern community for how it manages its money. Money spent that is audited yearly more heavily then any other government financing handed out in this country.

(Especially money handed out to particular ridings held by Conservative MPs that may be threatened in an election…)

Ahhh, the twisted priorities of the political game… (but I digress…)

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Here is the leaked report from the Fishyleaks site:– the report that the Salmon Farmer’s Association is whining about being prematurely released.

Hmmm, all this talk of premature… maybe the salmon farming industry was given free reign to BC’s coast prematurely?

Dr Sally Goldes report

The abstract for the report suggests:

Atlantic salmon eyed eggs have been imported almost yearly into British Columbia during the period 1985 until 2010 from a number of countries including the USA, UK , Iceland and also from Atlantic Canada  (BC Atlantic Imports).   Source aquaculture facilities, except for more recent imports from Iceland (where the definition of lot was not achieved, however the rest of the procedures were the same) were certified free of specified piscine pathogens of concern according to testing protocols mandated in the Canadian Fish Health Protection Regulations (CFHPR).  Immediately prior to shipment, eyed eggs were disinfected according to the CFHPR iodophor disinfection protocol.

Certification and iodine egg disinfection together are the main pillar’s of Canada’s defense against the introduction of exotic piscine diseases such as Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA).  In order to protect British Columbia’s wild aquatic ecosystems and aquaculture industries these measures must provide a high level of security.   Close scientific examination of these regulatory measures however raises concerns that in-practice, these measures fail to provide the high level of protection required.  This discussion focuses on certain concerns with: (1) ISA detection using cell culture, (2) sample size, and (3) iodine surface disinfection, however there remain many other weaknesses.

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Could be an interesting week at Cohen Commission — stay tuned…

SFU: Managing for Uncertainty: Pathogens and Diseases in Pacific Salmon Invitational Scientists’ “Think Tank”

Salmon Think Tank?

Simon Fraser University in Vancouver convened a “Think Tank” of leading scientists a little over a week ago to discuss: Pathogens and Diseases in Pacific Salmon. The event, part of SFU’s “Speaking for the Salmon” was touted as an Invitational Scientists Think Tank.

I’m not a huge fan of the term: “think tank”… as it hints to some of those rather ‘right-wing’ entities in BC, one in particular named after an early ‘explorer’ and BC’s largest river… and ending in “Institute”… it also touts itself as a “think tank”.

There’s also the old cliche about ‘thinking outside the box’… well… if you’re stuck in a tank, it might be hard to do that.

Salmon think tanks?

However… some decent recommendations coming out of this group — and well timed for the Cohen Commission’s upcoming ISA-days. [Infectious Salmon Anemia Days… sounds attractive doesn’t it…?]

SFU Salmon Think Tank Recommendations from Think Tank Convenors

SFU Dec. 2011_Think Tank Consensus Statement

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Out of the recommendations in the Consensus Statement is a bit of the usual… ‘more research’…

New technologies are providing means to discover and describe new disease organisms. However, it has proven more difficult to link specific disease organisms to health and disease, and even harder to link particular disease organisms to salmon population dynamics. [aka Data GAP]

Furthermore, it has proven challenging to move beyond the study of individual disease organisms to managing for multiple risk factors that can collectively compromise the resilience of salmon populations. [a.k.a. we’ve been screwing with salmon populations for far too long to actually isolated impacts.]

Combining modern methods, such as molecular assays and telemetry, with classic pathology, on‐the-ground population monitoring and large‐scale experiments can provide the needed insight into the risk factors associated with disease in wild fish [curiously many of the folks participating in the event have companies that specialize in exactly this…not that that is necessarily a bad thing, however might be important to point out].

However the statement finishes with an excellent recommendation:

It is time to develop new collaborative and independent infrastructures for addressing these challenges.

This sort of rings of the announcement in BC this week:

Independent police monitor coming from Denver to start B.C. office

…Richard Rosenthal is coming to police British Columbia police.

He is leaving Denver to head B.C.’s new Independent Investigations Office, a watchdog to probe police incidents that result in serious harm or death. The office will also be able to recommend criminal charges.

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Interesting… what if we had an independent office in BC that could investigate and monitor the Department of Fisheries and Oceans? And other government institutions responsible for salmon habitat?

It would be like a permanent Cohen Commission… or… Auditor General for salmon.

Then things like the handing over salmon farming regulations to the Province, which was against the Canadian Constitution, probably wouldn’t have happened. And an expensive Supreme Court challenge would not have occurred and all the costs of DFO developing new aquaculture regs.

Just a thought…




“DFO says Cohen Commission to blame for delay”… nothing like half-facts to assist in denial… One more disconnection notice for DFO and salmon farmers

There’s an article running in national news cycles today that suggests the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is trying to blame others for what might be their own inadequacy…

One of the top 5 rules for PR when you’re in a hole: Deflect Blame.

Another… when in doubt: deny, deny, deny.

Otherwise known as: “I’m sorry sir, I cannot recall the details of that contract…”

Or… as the embroiled Conservative government Defence Minister right now… spin, spin, spin… back-peddle, back-peddle… spin, spin, spin…

DFO says Cohen Commission to blame for delay

Blame the Cohen Commission, in part, for delays in processing amendment applications for fish farm licenses, says DFO.

Last week, in the wake of announced job and production cuts from Marine Harvest Canada, a number of fish farmers said a slow regulatory process is hurting efforts to improve efficiency.

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Hmmm… damn government red tape… always the barrier to “efficiency” isn’t it?

If we’d just let those ultra-trustworthy corporations do what they want to to do for ‘maximum efficiency’ then all would be great!

Isn’t that kind of like saying: “hey olympians, just use whatever performance-enhancing drugs you need… that would be so much more efficient…”

Just think, running races like the 5000 metres, or 10,000 metres or the marathon for that fact would be over so much quicker then now. That’s efficiency isn’t it?

Then the corporate sponsors could get more ads in, thus more sponsorship dollars, more efficiency, more jobs, more sponsorship…

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goes the annoying buzzer.

Yes, a question down here in the front, yes you sir… what’s your question?”

“Ummmm, I was just wondering, doesn’t more ‘efficiency’ usually result in a loss of jobs?… you know like NAFTA, or otherwise?”

“OH NO… not at all… i mean… ummm… let me be clear here… ummm… I mean… with more efficiency we could produce more fish, have more farms in operation, etc., way more benefit to local communities, you know… i mean…”

“Huh… interesting… so how does more fish being produced mean ‘more jobs’…  how many more farmed salmon does it take to create another job?… say for example, those 60 jobs you’re cutting right now, Marine Harvest?”

“Well… ummm… i mean… you know… let me be clear… this is a very complex issue… ummm… you have to understand…”

{personally… I’m a huge fan of that statement “you have to understand”… as I am when a politician (e.g. our current PM, with his media and communications clamp down starts an answer with: “let me be clear”…}

{Yes, Mr. PM… please be clear… is generally my answer..}

{here’s to dreaming…}

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From the article:

MHC [Marine Harvest] announced late in October that it will shed roughly 60 jobs from its total of about 500 and cut production by 30 per cent in reaction to decreasing prices stemming from an increase in global production.

Mainstream Canada said it wasn’t planning any layoffs but it could be much more efficient if it was allowed to increase production at some of it’s farms. Applications for approval to do that remain stalled with DFO.

OH…. hold on a second Mr./Ms. Salmon Farmer… you’re saying that:

“We should have a world-leading, positive, responsible farming community here,” he said. (Mr. Hawthorn from Grieg Seafood) “Instead, we’ve been stuck with no growth for more than 10 years now. You’ve got no way of getting your costs down because your regulations are stuck 15 years ago.”

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Hmmm… let’s get this straight… you say that you had to do the layoffs because of “increased global production“…. BUT… If DFO would just get going on approval then you’d be “more efficient” ?

I’m no “economist” but I do seem to remember some basic concepts of supply and demand…

Doesn’t the above suggest that more efficiency, means for production…? But if layoffs are coming because of increased global production… meaning somewhere else (most likely the same multinational company — e.g. Marine Harvest) is producing the same fish for cheaper somewhere else (e.g. Chile) because labor is cheaper and enviro laws are more lax (and there aren’t any of those pesky wild salmon runs and wild salmon advocates)… then how is being “more efficient” and producing more fish, help the company bottom line, or result in ‘more jobs’ in BC?

If there’s a glut of farmed salmon on the market — e.g. “increased global production” — then how is more approvals for more salmon farms and more efficiency on the BC coast going to assist that?

Getting costs down… doesn’t that mean cutting jobs?

And didn’t those jobs getting cut have to do with a glut of fish on the markets, meaning lower prices, meaning lower profits, meaning job cuts?

And so this is the Cohen Commission’s fault… how?

And DFO, ummmm… you seem to forget to mention, the fact that you just took over Aquaculture Regs. in BC because you wrongfully gave the Province of BC the responsibility of aquaculture regulations some time back — which in fact was against the Canadian Constitution and the division of powers between the feds and the Provinces…

And you lost your argument in the Supreme Court? RRRRiiight. forgot about that for a bit…

Hmmm. right… and that you yourself, as a federal ministry, have had your struggles in getting those aquaculture regulations back under federal control where they belong (according the Canadian Constitution)… no, let’s just forget to mention that bit, and simply blame it on the Cohen Commission.

Maybe not the wisest strategy considering that the Cohen Commission holds the pen at the moment in making recommendations to your ministry’s operations…

Plus the disrespect that the Cohen Commission is supposed to be an independent review in potentially highlighting your mis-management in the first place.

Maybe take that ‘strategy’ back to the drawing board… because I thought the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was supposed to look to conserve fish first… then look at opportunities for economic development or otherwise… twisted priorities maybe?

Maybe time for another disconnection notice for salmon farmers and DFO…?

“The herring that, aren’t” the Dr. Seuss-type scientific logic, around the present herring fishery in the Gulf islands

thingamajigger fisheries science...

Been quite a last little while for DFO’s brand of “science”. However, one might suggest it’s been that way for quite a long time…

The thing with “science” is that, in the sheer horror of scientists, it can be rather subjective.

“Science” prides itself, or at least the scientists that practice it, on this sheer imaginary principle of ‘objectivity’. Unfortunately, ‘objectivity’ is kind of like a Dr. Suess’ thingamajigger … even more so when ‘science’ is conducted to set human limits on either extracting things (generally for a cash return) or emitting things (also generally for a cash return).

You know extractive things like: fisheries, forestry, oil & gas production that in turn needs massive quantities of water, and the emitting ‘science’ surrounding human-induced climate change, or sewage treatment, or… or…

And even if science was ‘objective’ —- purely focused on the ‘objects’ of study with no influence of the scientist’s mind… or culture… or training… —- it still, the majority of the time, has to run flat on into politics, which in turn is largely dictated by the classic jobs vs. environment cliche.

Even the best ‘science’ of the day couldn’t help the North Atlantic Cod. Politics trumps science… at least for now. Until some scientists are asked to put humpty dumpty back together again…

Look no further than the recent climate change talks in South Africa… and our fine current Canadian ‘conservative’ approach to the issue… (deny, deny, deny… as mentioned multiple times on this blog… marketing is everything, everything is marketing).

The illustration above was motivated by a message sent around today on the issue of Herring stocks in the Salish Sea and DFO’s brand of “science” in ‘managing’ these stocks. (but don’t forget, herring are pretty key food species for many salmon, as well as all sorts of other critters).

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Message from David Ellis, long-time fisheries biologist living in Vancouver:

“All of the [metastock] herring, leave the Salish Sea, in the winter”, is still officially the biological theory, that is the basis, of the 2012 DFO herring fishing plan (from DFO website):

Science Advisory Report 2010/064, Stock Assessment Report on Pacific Herring in British Columbia in 2010

“All herring spawning in Statistical Areas 14 to 19, 28 and 29 [both sides of the Salish Sea, from Campbell River, to Victoria] (excluding Section 293[Boundary Bay]), and part of 13 (Herring Sections 132 and 135[Cape Mudge], Deepwater Bay area south) are assumed to belong to the Strait of Georgia herring stock that migrates into the Strait in the late fall and leaves, after spawning, in March.”

So the large herring that will be landed and sold to the public at Steveston, today and tomorrow (see below) are the herring, that aren’t! (The 2012 DFO fishing plan, has set a separate quota, for the “migratory” roe herring fishery, to be taken in march, at Qualicum and at Denman Island). So the present Gulf islands “winter” herring fishery, is for herring, that are not officially, there, they, just, aren’t!

Please ask the fishermen at the sale! I am sure they will say the herring were taken in the Gulf Islands, within the “Salish Sea” statistical areas noted above, where the “official” DFO biology, says the “Strait of Georgia herring stock”, now, aren’t.

In the Dr. Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat”, the cat drives a “THINGAMAJIG”, which not only drives on land, but then, with the minimum of physical alteration, then flies and even goes underwater. Like the cobbled-together bio-data for the DFO 2012 herring fishing plan, the “THINGAMAJIG” can at will, defy all rational science, and go where it wants, because it actually is, of course, not based on science at all. The DFO 2012 herring fishing plan, is based only on politics (fish processing companies lobbying to an antiquated DFO “top-down” Ottawa-based management model). Put in a position where they have to defend this “entitlement to fish” despite the complete lack of study of the “resident” populations of herring, the only recourse for the DFO stock assessment biologists, is to, like the “Cat in the Hat”, carry on a complete aura of confidence, that all is based, on science. They must retain this complete confidence that so that no one (least of all a Judge from a court of Canadian law!) will challenge their bio-theories, which could lead to a court injunction, to close the fishery. But it simply is very very hard to challenge cheerful and confident, “Cats in Hats”, or DO stock assessment biologists, as they make fantasy, sound like reality.

The DFO has in fact, used up all of their fisheries biology currency, to provide the scientific justification, for a large annual quota for a roe herring fishery, on the “migratory” populations. But to achieve this large quota, the assumption had to be, that all local populations of herring, were actually one “metastock”, that could therefore be harvested in one location, with a very large quota. But the markets for roe herring, have now suddenly evaporated, while strong markets have now emerged, for the whole herring bodies, for human food, best caught in the winter before spawning.

So they have been caught with their “biological pants”, down; they have no reasoning left, to even say why the “resident” or “winter”, herring, are even in the Salish Sea, during the winter. The fish being caught now, simply, shouldn’t! In short, there is only “Dr. Seuss fantasy biology”, to explain the very existence, of the fish being sold now, at Steveston. In fact, the only “official” herring they can now be encountered in the Salish Sea, would in theory be the “young-of-the-year” (YOY) migratory, herring, who have not yet left, for the open sea:

Schweigert, J. F., Hay, D. E., Therriault, T. W., Thompson, M., and Haegele, C. W. 2009. Recruitment forecasting using indices of young-of-the-year Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) abundance in the Strait of Georgia (BC). – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 66: 1681–1687:

“The timing of migration of YOY herring out of the Strait of Georgia to other feeding areas is not well understood. [remind you of the Cohen Commission and salmon “science”… remember: DATA GAP, the new clothing line for the Cohen Commission] The juvenile surveys conducted by Haegele (1997) provide the best evidence that many YOY and older herring (age 1) overwinter in the Strait and spend at least part of their second summer there. These same surveys, however, indicate that the abundance of older herring declined towards the end of their second summer.

Therefore, during the autumn period, most age-1 and older herring either migrated out of the Strait or to areas where they were not vulnerable to the sampling gear depending on their age. Additionally, Haegele et al. (2005) conducted some seine sampling in Johnstone Strait during 1998 and 1999 and found substantial quantities of YOY herring that may have been spawned in the Strait of Georgia. It appears that these fish had either migrated from the Strait of Georgia or were in the process of migrating from Johnstone Strait. Such migrations could bias survey results if their extent and timing varied markedly from year to year, but because the origin of these fish could not be determined, it is not possible to assess the potential bias. For example, YOY estimates of the 1999 and 2000 year classes differ markedly from the estimates at age 3 (Figure 3). These discrepancies could be a result of differential movements of fish in or out of the Strait as well as of variable environmental impacts on fish distribution and survival at the time of the surveys.”

“Based on tagging data and offshore survey analyses, most herring from the Strait of Georgia migrate to the west coast of Vancouver Island to feed offshore, and presumably mix with herring originating from the west coast or from other locations, such as Washington State, before returning as adults to spawn in the Strait of Georgia. Although we cannot be certain that all herring return, available tagging data (Hay et al., 2001) indicate that the rate of straying, when examined among the same large geographical units used for stock assessment, is quite low and should not substantially affect the comparison.”


So I was wrong in my last posting, in saying that all “migratory” herring leave the Salish Sea, quickly; the “migratory” fish that hatch out, and spend time in the often declining eelgrass beds (the reality of habitat decline logically means less fishing, not more) and then may work their way out to either Juan De Fuca, or Johnstone Strait, over a period of a year. But they have just not been studied enough yet (as DFO notes, above); so the DFO does not really know, how long this takes them, or even which way [Juan De Fuca, or Johnstone Strait?] they go. But these tasty little “YOY” herring are VERY important to the feeding Coho (never recovered yet in Salish Sea since the collapse a decade go, I wondering why?) Chinook (read, key Orca food) ling cod, rock fish, porpoise, and many bird species.

Court room judges, who may now be called onto to decide if this fishery is in fact valid, under the laws and policies of Canada, need to take the time to carefully read the bio-jumble of the abundant DFO herring biology that is on line (see above), these papers actually admit many, data deficiencies. They also need to note, that the “metastock” theory used in B.C., is also strongly opposed by biologists in Washington State, who deny the existence of a “metastock”, and instead use “local stock” biological theories, to manage herring there (see Even the lay-reader, will soon see that “modern science”, still knows very very little, about the Salish Sea herring, if opinions are so clearly and widely, divided.

In the end the only route to take at this time, if long term conservation of these fishes were indeed the policy of Canada (it definitely, is not, if the fish processing lobbyists, are left in control in the dysfunctional [from a public policy perspective] “top-down” Ottawa-based management system) is the super-pre-cautionary fishery as practiced by First Nations, probably learned the hard way about 1000 years ago, to just take just some of the herring eggs, a very few of the adults. And don’t scare the herring away, by hitting the canoe with your paddle!

Canadian government suppressing science on Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) on Pacific Coast?

This issue of the ISA virus (ISAV) on the BC coast, is most certainly not going anywhere. There’s a report flying through the social media circles that the Department of Fisheries & Oceans was aware of the potential for significant evidence of ISA in Pacific Salmon.

Here is an email string and the approx. 7-year old report that suggests ISA was rather prevalent in the Pacific Salmon sampled.

The researcher involved, Molly Kibenge, is asking Dr. Simon Jones, in the Aquatic Animal Health Section of DFO to publish her research from 7 years previous that demonstrated she found significant presence of ISA in wild Pacific salmon.

Dr. Jones concludes in his email response just over 2 weeks ago  (CFIA is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency):


So here is credible, scientific evidence suggesting that the ISA virus was lurking in wild Pacific salmon and DFO is still in deny, deny, deny.

This research is now almost 10 years old, and it’s still deny, deny, deny.

And in the response from Dr. Fred Kibenge, Dr. Molly Kibenge’s husband essentially saying we’ll disclose this information notwithstanding its age…

_ _ _ _ _ _

It could very well be that there are still issues to be ironed out on the ‘scientific’ testing and cultures, and so on and so on… However this does not discount the simple fact that the federal agency, and at the time in 2002 the BC Provincial Government, did not have a responsibility to share this information with the public — and to outline what the action plan was to ensure that all scientific protocols were being followed to confirm presence or absence of ISA, and what would be done in the future if it was discovered.

The thing with salmon farming and ISA is that it’s just not a matter of “if” it is always a case of “when”… just like any other kind of farming. If we raise domesticated animals in close confinement, it is only a matter of time before disease breaks out. And all we have is mitigating measures… antibiotics and otherwise, often without the required testing to ensure human and other animal safety.

Here’s the full email string and older report of Dr. Kibenge.

Dr. Kibenge ISA report_DFO response

Here’s also a blog post out of Seattle from the Seattle Weekly:

Deadly Salmon-Virus Tests Kept Secret for Years by Canada, Leaked Documents Say

Stay tuned for the heat to be turned up on this issue as the Cohen Commission has a special hearing in mid-December.

Something smells all too fishy… feed lot fishy.

California Tribe Hopes to Woo Salmon Home

A New York Times article from last year. I’ve mentioned this story in various places. A First Nation on the Sacramento River is traveling to New Zealand to invite wild salmon back. Many years ago, Chinook eggs from the Sacramento River were taken to southern New Zealand.

They took… and now southern New Zealand has an active Chinook sport fishery – and the Sacramento…?

California Tribe Hopes to Woo Salmon Home

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday night, more than two dozen Native Americans embarked from here on a spiritual mission to New Zealand, where they will ask their fish to come home to California.

The unusual journey centers on an apology, to be relayed to the fish on the banks of the Rakaia River through a ceremonial dance that tribal leaders say has not been performed in more than 60 years.

The fish in question is the Chinook salmon, native to the Pacific but lately in short supply in the rivers of Northern California, home to the Winnemem Wintu — a tiny, federally unrecognized and poor tribe supported by some Social Security payments, a couple of retirement plans and the occasional dog sale…

read more at the Times.


Do you see the difference?

Do you remember that old ABC laundry soap commercial? “Do you see the difference?”

Well, I ask it here…

Out of the U.S. the other day, and specifically a Senator from Washington State:

Cantwell Salmon Virus Amendment Headed to President for Signature

Thursday, November 17,2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed legislation authored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that calls for an investigation and rapid response plan to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly salmon virus. The Cantwell salmon virus amendment passed both the Senate and House on Thursday as part of the minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2112).

The legislation, backed by all eight U.S. Senators from the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The virus, recently detected for the first time in Pacific wild salmon in Canada, may pose a threat to the Pacific Northwest salmon fishing industry and the coastal economies that rely on it. Cantwell has called, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Mark Begich (D-AK), for the U.S. government to test the Canadian samples to independently confirm the presence of the salmon virus.

And yet in Canada, nothing but denial, spin, and cover-up.

Government agencies failing to protect wild salmon

By Ruby Berry, Vancouver Sun November 22, 2011

Recent reports of the presence of the deadly ISA virus in B.C. wild salmon seem to have alarmed everyone except those meant to be taking care of the wild salmon.

Rather than taking immediate measures to determine the extent of this threat, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency leaped to discredit the findings and assure international markets that all is well in Canadian waters. Unfortunately, their claim rests on inconclusive evidence and degraded samples.

Instead of launching an emergency investigation into this potential disaster, the federal government has announced a million dollar grant to the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance for international advertising. It appears that the health of B.C. waters, and the wild salmon is not the priority of the federal government after all.

Do you see the difference?

With the potential mass implication of ISA on the Pacific Coast, shouldn’t our government at least be taking even more precautions?

What if it was SARS again? or polio, or something similar…?

Wouldn’t there be special task forces, more public inquiries, various lock downs, tests, etc.?

What if it was Mad Cow, or foot-&-mouth disease…?

Avian flu?

I think we could all safely say that ‘denial’ would not be the main course of action…