Dick Beamish, a key government apologist for fish farms, has been thoroughly discredited by a colleague

Salmon Farm Apologist’s “Shoddy Science” Outed by DFO Colleague’s Memo


“Blockbuster” hardly describes an internal DFO memo recently uncovered through the Cohen Commission on collapsing Fraser sockeye stocks – now made public in a blog by Don Staniford, the doughty fighter against Atlantic Salmon fish farmers, which battle has included a lawsuit by the shameless bastards.

The 2003 memo (download here) contains some truly shocking passages for their candour and for how clearly they vindicate those who have been critical of DFO’s salmon farm science. Written by a respected DFO scientist, Dr. Brent Hargreaves, the memo severely attacks the credibility of a colleague, key salmon farm apologist Dr. Dick Beamish, whose science Hargreaves labels as “shoddy” and “unethical”, among other pejoratives. Here are a couple of choice passages:

“The research on sea lice that has been conducted by Beamish has been strongly and widely criticized in both the scientific community and the public media…I think to a large degree it was the inadequacies of Beamish’s research and conclusions that led to the lack of public confidence in DFO science…

…I also do not want to be directly associated, either professionally or personally, with either Beamish or his research…He always does exactly as he pleases, regardless of the (often negative) impacts on DFO staff and research programs.”

First, a bit of background.

For nearly a decade we who were fighting Atlantic Salmon fish farms, led by the intrepid Alexandra Morton, were told by the provincial government that the “science” was on the side of the fish farms and that they would continue to permit the industry to expand.

The international scientific community familiar with the issue of sea lice from fish farms killing migrating Pacific Salmon supported her fight against. Her findings were published and peer-reviewed; several fish biologists also published papers condemning fish farms and Dr. Daniel Pauly of UBC, one of the most distinguished scientists in the world according to Scientific American, said flatly “the debate is over.”

Still, the Campbell government had the “science on their side.”

At the request of Premier Campbell, I presented him with an analysis of the scientific evidence which he ignored. He had the “science on his side.”

On it went – study begat study, all of which endorsed Alexandra Morton’s findings.

Still, the government pressed on. And so did Alex, who brought lawsuits, wrote, marched, all at considerable personal expense – not to mention the huge emotional beating she took.

And the Campbell government maintained that it had the “science on its side.” (Needless to say, Premier Christy Clark was part of that government in the critical early days.)

Alex has had lots of supporters very much including her “Boswell,” Don Staniford – here is an excerpt from is his July 13 release:

…The memo went on to describe Dr. Beamish’s scientific research as “unethical”, “unprofessional” and a “‘lapse’ in judgment”.

In his testimony to the Cohen Inquiry last week, which saw his career flash before his eyes like Klingons off the starboard bow of the Star Trek ship ‘The Enterprise’, Dr. Beamish said: “Maybe it’s aliens” before adding unbelievably: “Obviously I don’t believe in aliens”.

Dr. Beamish certainly doesn’t believe that sea lice from salmon farms are killing wild salmon and spent his career staunchly defending the Norwegian-owned salmon farming industry.  At last year’s ‘Sea Lice 2010’ conference in Victoria, Dr. Beamish refused to answer questions on sea lice from salmon farms.  This was even more incredible since Dr. Beamish was the plenary speaker in a session on ‘Wild/Farmed Interactions’.

The audience in the public gallery at the Cohen Inquiry last week were left in no doubt which side Dr. Beamish was on when he greeted Mary-Ellen Walling, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association.  “My inspiration,” he gushed as he hugged her like an old flame.

“This is bad science?” asked lawyer Greg McDade as he ripped apart Dr. Beamish’s scientific work.  Thankfully, Dr. Beamish recently called last orders on his career with the DFO.  His future scientific credibility would be in jeopardy otherwise.

I find it hard to speak on this – a rare thing for me – my anger is so intense. The scientist Campbell and co. relied upon so stubbornly was, according to a respected colleague, “unethical” and “unprofessional”.

Just one or two thoughts:

  • The shit and abuse we all have taken, most especially Alex, at the hands of environmental turncoats like Patrick Moore to say nothing of Liberal Party hacks.
  • The refusal of the government to apply the “precautionary principle” – it’s the law – placing the onus of proof on the industry not private citizens.
  • The deliberate bias of the media who allowed the fish farm flack, Mary-Ellen Walling, to roam the op-ed pages virtually at will…and their utter lack of any scrutiny.
  • The silence of the media columnists who trashed the government when it was NDP and have been struck dumb on this issue.
  • The lawsuits Alex took and won and paid for – to a large extent – out of her own pocket.
  • The lies of the industry, deliberate lies – I say deliberate because the largest shareholder of the biggest company, Marine Harvest, admitted that sea lice were slaughtering migrating wild salmon.
  • The terrific support we’ve all had from the decent public which BC is mostly made up of.
  • Most of all, the appalling loss of millions of our precious salmon – destroyed because the Liberal government consciously and deliberately refused to look at the massive evidence.    

Will the Clark Liberals do the decent thing and apologize?
Not a chance. The moral compass of this bunch was set when Campbell got thrown in jail for drunk driving and imposed no penalty on himself.
Will they immediately act to stop all new licenses and give the present farmers 60 days to dismantle and leave?
You have to be kidding! Admit error? Bite the hand that feeds them? Show a little contriteness?
Hell will definitely freeze over before that happens.
Every single Liberal MLA from 2001 until now ought to hang their heads in shame.
I’m sure I speak for Alexandra Morton, her loyal “Boswell”, Don Staniford, and the thousands of citizens who have supported what often looked like a lost cause, in saying that the vindication of Dr. Hargreaves’ evidence is swamped by the sense of the massive loss of our province’s soul, the Pacific salmon, which would have lived were if not for deceit and negligence of a government which, if they had an ounce of decency, would resign en masse.


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 rafeonline.com.

22 thoughts on “Salmon Farm Apologist’s “Shoddy Science” Outed by DFO Colleague’s Memo

  1. I find it utterly amazing with all the BS the Liberal gov’t has done in this province that the people have yet to have an uprising.

  2. I don’t know and don’t care, Tanya. It’s been deemed authentic enough to be pass the Cohen Commission’s rigorous standards for evidence. Even if it were an “unsent” memo-to-file it would be credible – though I’m not saying that it wasn’t sent to Dr. Laura Richards. In fact, politicians and bureaucrats often write memos-to-file to documenting situations they are uncomfortable with in order to covered their asses later if needed. The point is it is a legitimate document from a senior government scientist very clearly recording “unethical” scientific methods from the government’s star salmon farm apologist. It appears all you have are Ad hominem attacks on Hargreaves – which also tells me we hit a nerve here. And this is just the tip of the ice berg for you phish farmers and your house of cards.

  3. I just reread the memo…it says it came from desktop computer c drive. NOT that it was ever sent. Please let me know if you again believe that I am incorrect.
    Maybe just venting then thought better of it?

  4. Damien this letter was NEVER sent. Please get your facts straight. I am very literate thank you that is why I know not to judge by one person’s rantings. Have you interviewed Hargreaves?
    The validity of his 3 papers (in 30 years) will come out in August when the aquaculture portion of the Coehn testimony is done.
    I am also able to read numerous scientific papers and not focus on one persons opinion. If we did that wouldn’t we all think that the world is flat?
    Damien I will patiently await the proof behind this story. You have my email!

  5. Tanya, you’re repeating yourself and wasting my time. The memo was written to Dr. Laura Richards, Regional Director, DFO Science Branch – it’s right there in THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF THE MEMO, if you cared to read it and are sufficiently literate. If you’re suggesting the note is a forgery or in any way lacks credibility as evidence in a federal judicial inquiry, then you don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

  6. The day that their benefactor goes down to electoral defeat will be the day that the fish farming industry will have to change it’s tack on closed-pen systems. Until then they will hold the line pooh-poohing the science and ridiculing alternatives to their toxic open-pen systems. Oh, maybe they’ll soften their stand if it looks like their benefactor needs some help getting re- elected, but that will be a compromise on their part and they won’t do it willingly. To even start researching closed-pen systems would be a tacit admission that there’s some validity to it; that’s why they reject it out of hand.

    The salient point is that they cannot continue despoiling our natural resources without the approval of government. In that sense the science doesn’t matter as much as who’s in government. We see what the BC Liberal government has done. Can we trust them to do something different even if they promise they will?

  7. Science was my favorite subject in school,but it now means …IF I GO TO SCHOOL AND GET A SCIENCE DEGREE,YOU PAY ME LOTS OF MONEY GIVE ME THE RESULTS YOU WANT AND I”LL COME UP WITh THOSE RESULTS..shoddy science I’D SAY

  8. continued from previous comment…
    in 100 years and Morton is trying to save face by now pointing the finger at disease transmission (oh…she also did some wonderful trips around the watershed displaying her ignorance of stock assessment activities). Lice? What lice? Did she said “lice”? Does anyone even hear about sea lice anymore? Now it is Salmon Leukemia….or is it Salmon Anemia Virus now….or is it small pox? Sorry for being a party pooper. I will let you go back to your fun now.

    quoted from Brian http://www.salmonguy.org/?p=4274

  9. So what has gone on since 2003? Well, we have found out that Kroksek and Morton’s prediction of pink salmon extinction in the Broughton area was a flop. We see that pink salmon populations in that area really do fluctuate and have fluctuated over a long time series – even before fish farms. We know that Kroksek and Morton cherry pick what data they want to use by excluding a major pink salmon area in their 2007 study and got called on it by the scientific community. We had the collapse of 2009 and lots of finger pointing at fish farms because naturally fish farms are just multnationals that care about the bottom line and all fish farmers are just lying two-faced people. We then had an inquiry called to look into the cause of the decline (which is really about fish farms so the critics just slept through the rest of the testimony because their fancy lakeshore properties and their net fisheries have nothing to do with declines). What else? Oh yeah we also had Morton claiming that Fraser Sockeye were getting decimated by sea lice and predicted that the 2008 out-migrants were doomed like the adult Sockeye that didn’t return in 2009. In 2010, the Fraser had the largest return of Sockey!

  10. Damien, Who was the letter addresses to? When was it sent? Really you would take the word of one person’s ranting and one published paper over many scientific papers, written by many.
    I will accept your apology when the Coehn Commission is over and when DFO issue their statement on the “letter” that was never sent or addressed. Yes a judge let it in so he must be right!
    I have read the ONE paper. Please check your sources ..by that I mean the many sources that are available. 2003 that is pretty recent stuff!
    Good luck in your search for unicorns and leprechauns!

  11. What the hell are you talking about, Tanya? Dr. Hargreaves was a senior scientist at DFO when he wrote this memo in 2003. The memo is linked to in the piece so you can read it for yourself, which you have clearly not done – or you’re choosing to play dumb. Then you dump some fish farm propaganda tripe on us like that clears everything up. Dr. Hargreaves credentials aren’t the issue here – it’s the “unethical” behavior of Dr. Beamish, which Hargreaves clearly describes in the memo. The memo has been entered into evidence at the Cohen commission – thus deemed relevant by the Judge and commission to the proceedings. You’re barking up the wrong tree.

  12. I have written to you Rafe asking for Brent Hargreaves credentials and yet no reply. This man is not published anywhere. How is it that you can publish a “letter” that clearly was not dated, nor addressed to anyone, nor ever sent? It reads like a scorned five year old. Do your research before presenting your National Enquirer type reporting.
    READ the science and stop blaming people that clearly have done the undisputed scientific research.
    Len it is Dr. Beamish and what back ground have you on the issues presented in his many published works?

    What have you done Rafe to help the world other than stir up gossip and untruths? People who believe your word without proof/the whole story frighten me. You think you could do a better job at running the country/province lets see you up there doing a better job instead of hiding behind your computer.
    Let me remind you that this Coehn Commission is not yet over. Nothing has been decided. Have you reviewed all of the evidence?

    Rafe and your followers. Remember that Rafe was fired. Another conspiracy? OR….a reflection of his abilities, or lack there of? People keep your head in the sand it’s safer and warmer!

  13. I believe ,if it is true these people have been lieing thru their teeth,it’s time to start sueing them personally..see how far that nice gov’t pension mr.Beamish is sucking up goes…Throw Paul Sprout in there too…another Fishfarm lover that is sitting back enjoying his Gov’t pension,after he tried to wipe out our wild fish

  14. Liberals rely on unethical and unprofessional science? Hard to believe. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the “Clark” gang to change anything. As for losing ones moral compass, you can’t lose what you never had.

  15. Whether it is the Fish Farm Industry or teachers, the current and past governments in this province lacks the “guts” to stand up to these intities. When a natural food source and childrens education are put in jeoprody by these two entities due to inaction by the Liberal government, it makes my blood boil. Campbell lacked the guts, maybe it’s time for Ms Clark to step up to the plate and have the courage and conviction to take a stand.

  16. Don’t worry, Val, your post is safe. As for your point, you guys need to come up with some new material. You well know that CAMP/BAMP (btw you also need to come up with some better acronyms – the worst being Salmon Aquaculture Dialogues – “SAD”) has changed the dynamics that were at play in the Broughton in the early 2000’s. When behaviours change, so does the science studying them. (incidentally, Rafe never once spoke of “extinction” in his piece – there’s much more to Alex’s enormous body of work than that). However, the industry is still overly reliant on highly toxic Slice – which, based on its track record is bound to quit working – and which has myriad other severe impacts on the marine environment. You also need to realize it’s not just about sea lice anymore (unless you’re talking about them as vectors for disease transfer) – it’s about fish farm waste creating huge dead zones around the farms, and, most importantly ISA and salmon leukemia. This Beamish memo is just the tip of the iceberg, but it shows a pattern of lies and denial from govt. and industry – which means we can’t trust a goddamn word from them anymore. Better buckle up – I see rough waters on the horizon for you guys.

  17. So how about a little bit of honesty in the opinion piece?

    Perhaps to mention that Alexander Morton’s latest science does not agree with her past claims. So to say that all science endorses her past findings of wild salmon extinction would be wrong – even her very own latest science disagrees with her claim (which she was forced to do by the way, and which is not linked from or mentioned in her own websites, so I could understand why you are not aware of this). http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/68/1/144.abstract

    I certainly hope you don’t delete this link for transparency sake.

  18. where’s Bill (the shill) Good on this…no where as usual other than on the side of those who’s lies and misinformation lead to the devastation of our most precious resource. CKNW is pathetic and would rather have Bill sucking up to Christy Cluck throwing out the slow pitch questions that receive bs answers to shine us on. Where are the First Nations on this…have they sold out their inherant rights to Campbell’s minions and the measly jobs involved with another fish pen…how many more fish farms are slated for the pristine Clayquot Sound…how many more are slated for ????? This artical must get out to the people of BC and the Liberals need to be held accountable and answer some hard ball questions that won’t allow them to side step or sugar coat the question…perhaps a mass rally in Vancouver would be something the media would cover…maybe it should go to some sort of International Press…this is Gordo’s and soon to be Christy’s legacy…the complete and total sell out of BC’s natural resources.

  19. One of the defining images of our province is the picture of the wild salmon being caught on a line in raging waters; it forms part of our culture in BC, promotes thousands of dollars in the sports fishery, also damaged by the idiocy of open pen farming.

    If I am premier tomorrow no-one would get 60 days to remove anything. The company here, it assets and financial accounts would be seized; they could then attend the Federal Court of Canada to have their assets returned to them after proving their case of no damage to the environment.

    Expensive idealism? You bet. Principles get expensive; mine have cost me a lot over the years, and will continue to do so.

    The fish farms are criminal; plain and simple; the people who support these endeavours are co-conspirators; it is quite revealing when you have to take your own government to court to obey its own laws.

  20. Will have to do this one in two postings;

    I think now, as the result of this revelation, there needs to be serious discussion of the various groups involved of a class action lawsuit against the provincial government, Marine Harvest, and any others who have continually promoted this nonsense.

    Class action involving the Save Our Rivers, the Fraser River Sockeye Fisherman’s Assoc. and any others involved in the wild fish markets as this has damaged reputations and incomes not to mention the loss of certain runs for the future generations to come.

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