Alexandra Morton laid out the case against salmon farms and their diseases to an audience of 200 at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club on Monday

J’Accuse!…Fish Farmers and Our Governments


In 1894 a French army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island prison.
In 1896 a Paris journalist, Emile Zola, printed an article called “J’Accuse!”, which tore apart the case and led eventually to his pardon – which he accepted because he was dying on the vicious tropical Devil’s Island – and he was exonerated to serve, gallantly though sick and old in combat in World War I. An Alsatian Jew, Dreyfus was seen by the military establishment automatically to be suspected.

Last Monday night, along with 200 others, I listened to Alexandra Morton outline the loss of our salmon and carefully and surgically weave together the case against the fish farm industry, the provincial government and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The case goes back 12 years and mirrors the Campbell/Clark administration.
First it involved escapees from fish farms crowding native salmon on their spawning grounds, something that continues but became less relevant as Alexandra discovered that hundreds of thousands of wild salmon smolts were being slaughtered by lice from fish farms sited on their migration routes. Lately Alexandra has concentrated on diseases imported into our waters by farmed fish.
J’accuse both senior governments of deliberately avoiding this issue.
Before going further let me stress a fact that is of great importance but overlooked.
When I started helping Alex, my veterinarian, the estimable Moe Milstein, took me aside and said “Rafe, I don’t know anything about that particular issue but I can tell you that when you take huge numbers of animals and coop them up, disease on a massive basis is inevitable.”
From the outset, Alex was stonewalled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and by the provincial Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
Study after study was produced, all being peer-reviewed in prominent scientific journals, yet Alex was pilloried and threatened with jail.
World class ocean scientists everywhere praised her work and supported her scientific methodology. She continued to be harassed and insulted by government and industry alike.
As Alex presents her case on disease in fish farms and the impact on wild salmon you begin to wonder – isn’t this where DFO steps in?
As she moves on – surely the DFO gets involved now!
But the presentation proceeded to stunningly make the case that these diseased fish farms are slaughtering entire runs of wild salmon, but nary a move by the DFO, the federal Environment Department, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture or Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource (which now controls tenures for fish farms).

It’s worse than mere neglect – while all this is going on, not only does DFO stand idly by but the Minister is globe-trotting, flogging farmed salmon in potential markets. The provincial Agricultural Ministry, rather than pulling licenses, is considering granting new ones!
J’accuse the fish farm industry of deliberately destroying millions of Pacific salmon with their Atlantics. They have hidden their documents, dissembled at every turn, admitted that their farms ought not to be sited near migration paths while expanding their operations and markets.
J’accuse the Province of ignoring worldwide science while renewing fish farm licenses and issuing new ones.
J’accuse the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of gross neglect of its statutory mandate to protect Pacific Salmon and, quite to the contrary, shilling for industry.
J’accuse the DFO of wilfully ignoring (or worse) the ever increasing scientific evidence of fish farms infecting large runs of wild salmon.
J’accuse every federal fisheries minister since 2001 of gross neglect of his/her duty to care for the wild pacific salmon. J’accuse these ministers of forcing DFO scientists to make political decisions paramount over scientific evidence.
J’accuse the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Province of avoiding inspection of fish farms, which would have, without question, led to prosecutions.
J’accuse DFO, under political orders, of suppressing evidence and muzzling DFO scientists.
J’accuse the mainstream media of abdicating its responsibility to hold the governments they cover accountable and indeed looking for all the world as if they were promoting fish farms.
J’accuse both senior governments of failing to apply the Precautionary Principle, which would require fish farms to demonstrate they would not harm the wild salmon, instead of forcing those who care for the environment to establish their case against the farms.
This is a huge issue – in fact it goes to the root of the matter.
The Precautionary Principle is embedded in Canadian law and is sanctioned by the UN. Why shouldn’t industry be required to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that what they will do will not harm the environment?
Why should Alexandra Morton, who as a result of her decades-long fight is in straitened circumstances, be required to fund the research and carry the burden of proof? 
We are fools on an international scale. Those countries which have had experience with fish farms, namely Norway, the UK and Ireland, see us as idiots.
A few years ago I was a guest of Dr. Patrick Gargan, a world renowned fish biologist who has consistently verified Alex’s work, in Galway, Ireland, where he has his laboratory. Wendy and I were guests in his lab, and his senior technician, on learning I was from BC asked, succinctly, “Can’t you fucking well read out in Canada? Don’t you know what’s happened in Norway, Scotland and here in Ireland?”
Alexandra Morton is a hero and should be recognized as such throughout the nation – a nation that gives Orders of Canada to crooks while trying to put her in jail.
I’ve known Alex for over a decade and see the tremendous personal sacrifice she has made, to say nothing of the huge financial sacrifice.
Every step of the way – from escapees to sea lice to disease – she has been hassled, slandered, insulted and ignored.
Every step of the way she’s been proved right.

We are left, right now, with the two senior governments, especially Ottawa, still in denial and with Alexandra Morton doing all the work they should be doing and paying out enormous amounts for the research DFO should be doing.
All the while, the mainstream media ignores these issues while giving the Fish Farmers ample opportunity to attack Alex’s credibility.

This gallant lady who came to the Broughton Archipelago to study whales, became dedicated to saving wild salmon – and her thanks has been shit and abuse from the authorities.

For shame!


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

6 thoughts on “J’Accuse!…Fish Farmers and Our Governments

  1. Hey Rafe,

    When you talk about “hidden documents” by the the fish farm industry perhaps you can uncover the recent lab results provided to Ms Morton on reoviruses and alphaviruses. Please post them on your site. Let’s see how much of champion of transparency you really are?

  2. It is in disbelief, how any normal sane person with morals and ethics,,..could support a monster such as Harper? Who in their right mind, would permit filthy diseased fish farms, to kill off their country’s wild Salmon, other than Harper and the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals?

    There is no doubt, we are living in very evil times. BC has to battle both, the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals and Harper’s insanity. How do we rationalize politicians, who are not rational? That lie, deceive, thieve, are corrupt, use dirty tactics, dirty politics and cheat to win?

    I don’t doubt, there will be extreme disobedience in Canada. Canadians have had it with Harper. Well over 2/3 and counting Canadians, know Harper used the robo-call election cheat scam, to win the election

    Harper’s whopping $47 million security bill, will double. The more despised Harper becomes, the higher he has to beef up his security. They say, Harper has become very paranoid, about his safety.

    No province or Canadian, has to obey Harper’s treason, against our country. Harper is the worst traitor, in Canadian history. He really belongs in prison.

  3. I think our days as a species are numbered now. it is only a matter of time and, sadly not much of that, before we will destroy any bond we may rely on for our existence here. When people such as our current political offerings provincial and federal, are allowed to subdue and slander someone such as Alexandra Morton for trying to protect our life source then our demise is written in stone.
    We the caring of course are not the problem but we are quite pathetic to allow it to happen! The only possible excuse we can hide behind is cowardice!

  4. In my opinion DFO has mismanaged to the point of Criminal Negligence. For at least twenty years, but probably more.

  5. My sense is the dishonesty, incompetence, obstruction, corruption, manipulation, flawed ideology and improper vested interests are at their highest concentrations at the top of the current political food chain.

    Thus Stephen Harper, Oliver, Kent and Ashfield will not act on behalf of Canada or Canadians regarding interrelated issues, scandals or crimes involving coastal or inland waters, fisheries, habitat, environment, logging, shipping, hydro power etc.

    I am equally shocked by the actions of BC’s provincial government as well as the silence and cowardice of elected BC Conservative MP’s.

    I thought we had laws to defend our precious resources from thieves and polluters and radical political animals. Who knew that our most dangerous and reckless adversaries would be the people we elected to represent us and act on our behalf?

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