Tag Archives: Alexandra Morton

Alexandra Morton and SFU Prof. Rick Routlledge are being honoured with this year's Sterling Prize (photo: SalmonAreSacred.org)

Alexandra Morton Nets Two Academic Honours, Forces Farmed Salmon Recall


It’s been a busy couple of weeks for salmon biologist and anti-fish farm activist Alexandra Morton. In between receiving two prestigious academic honours on opposite sides of the country, she found the time to drop by a few Sobeys grocery stores in Halifax, discover clumps of sea lice on the farmed salmon they were selling and create a national media story that prompted the retailer to yank all the whole farmed salmon from their maritime stores. All in a week’s work for the indefatigable defender of wild salmon.

In Halifax, Morton was honoured last week with the invitation to deliver the annual Ransom A. Myers Lecture in Science and Society – named for the late DFO scientist who predicted the collapse of the east coast cod and resigned from the department when his bosses attempted to silence him. Each year the university invites one similarly talented and independent minded scientist to speak to their issue of concern. Morton’s presentation on the discovery of several catastrophic viruses in BC’s farmed and wild salmon was delivered to a packed house of 400 academics and produced the only standing ovation in the history of the five year program.

Morton and her small team of research assistants made use of their trip to the east coast to meet with biologists, conservation groups and fishermen to learn about the impacts of the open net pen salmon farming industry on their marine environment. She spoke with a number of lobster fishermen, for instance, who have had to abandon their livelihoods due to the crash in their fishery which they connect to the arrival of salmon aquaculture operations. Chemicals used to treat sea lice on the farmed fish are also lethal to shellfish, while fish farm waste covers up the lobsters’ vital seafloor habitat.

Morton also popped into a few Sobeys grocery stores and purchased a couple dozen fish to inspect for microscopic diseases. But it was the larger sea lice that immediately caught her attention – several fish were covered with the parasite. Soon after a colleague posted a picture of the lice on facebook, the media caught wind of the story, prompting the grocery chain to pull all whole farmed salmon from its east coast stores. The company said monday that it was in the process of updating its handling procedures for the product to ensure this embarrassing incident doesn’t repeat itself.

Meanwhile, back in Vancouver, Morton and her colleague, SFU professor Rick Routledge, will be receiving the Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy from SFU tonight. The award, as its title implies, was founded in 1993 “to honour and encourage work that provokes and/or contributes to the understanding of controversy.” According to SFU’s website for the honour, “The Sterling Prize is awarded annually to a recipient whose work presents new ways of looking at the world, ways that are daring and creative.”

Morton and Routledge, who together first discovered the lethal ISA virus in wild BC salmon last year, will deliver a joint talk at the award ceremony, titled “Salmon Farms and Disease: The Importance of Both Academic Freedom and Community-Engaged Research.” The event takes place tonight, Wednesday October 24th, at the Morris J Wosk Centre for dialogue, 580 West Hastings Street. Attendance is free but online registration is required in advance.

Morton’s research has been generating controversy for quite some time, but at these honours and others she’s collected in recent years (including an honourary doctorate from SFU) indicate, her work is being taken more and more seriously by established academia – and now even some major farmed salmon retailers to boot.

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!


BREAKING: First Detection of Salmon Alphavirus in BC – Alexandra Morton


Read this blog from salmon biologist Alexandra Morton, claiming her team has discovered salmon alphavirus for the first time in BC. (June 21, 2012)

On March 25, 2012 we purchased 11 farmed steelhead and 3 Arctic Char heads from the Fairway Market in Victoria, BC and sent samples from them for testing for three European farm salmon viruses.

8 came back positive for the salmon heart virus (piscine reovirus)


7 came back positive for Salmon Alphavirus.


7 tested positive for both

This is the first-ever report of Salmon Alpha virus in BC although there is a single report by Dr. Michael Kent, of the disease it causes, Pancreas Disease, in Atlantic farm salmon being raised in BC in 1987. The reason I asked the lab to test for these European viruses is because Dr. Gary Marty, the BC farm salmon vet, reported lesions in farm salmon that caused him to include Salmon Alphavirus in his reports to Mainstream and Marine Harvest on at a least 6 occasions from 2007-2009…

…First recognized in Scotland in 1984, SAV was subsequently detected in Ireland and Norway. There are three closely related viruses in this viral family and they are recognized as serious pathogens of farmed Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Europe. SAV 1 is the causative agent of pancreas disease (PD). SAV2 is the causative agent of sleeping disease of rainbow trout. SAV 3 has only been detected in Norway (as of 2007) causing Pancreas Disease in Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout.

Pancreas Disease is spreading in salmon farms the length of Norway. Marine Harvest was recently instructed to slaughter an entire farm in Norway by June 20th (Intrafish June 8). There were 90 cases in 2011 and the virus has spread to 8 farms in northern Norway this year (Intrafish May 31, 2012). Salmon Alpha virus survives well outside the fish drifting through the water spreading the infection. Chile became extremely alarmed when rumours of Salmon Alphavirus popped up there in 2008.

Read full blog: http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/alexandra_morton/2012/06/first-detection-of-salmon-alphavirus-in-bc-farmed-steelhead-1.html


Seattle Times on Alexandra Morton: Meet Salmon Farming’s Worst Enemy


Read this feature story from the Seattle Times on BC salmon biologist Alexandra Morton and her work to unmask the harmful diseases associated with the salmon farming industry. (May 26, 2012)

BROUGHTON ARCHIPELAGO, B.C. — She’s perched in her boat near a fish farm, talking about diseases, the kind that might escape and kill wild salmon. Then she spies a worker peeling toward her in a boat.

Alexandra Morton, bane of North America’s salmon farms, runs a hand over tired eyes and awaits a confrontation.

It’s no surprise this eco-provocateur is again in someone’s sights.

The biologist has spent countless days just like this — zipping through a pristine jumble of uninhabited bays and islands to check on Canada’s remote fish farms. Few activists try harder to convince the globe that salmon farming threatens the marine world. Few are taken as seriously — much to the chagrin of her many enemies.

It was Morton who stunned U.S. scientists last fall with trace evidence found in wild salmon of a virus that killed millions of farmed fish in Chile.

Researchers from Washington state to Washington, D.C., scrambled to grasp the risks of so-called infectious salmon anemia (ISA), a virus typically linked to fish farms. Congress demanded federal agencies test American fish. Wild-salmon lovers seethed. Leaders of British Columbia’s $500 million-a-year salmon-farming industry scoffed — in part because they so distrust Morton.

Then, just last week, another virus raced through salmon farms at Vancouver Island and Bainbridge Island, forcing operators to kill hundreds of thousands of farmed fish on both sides of the border. Unlike ISA, this virus, infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN), is native to wild Northwest salmon, but experts worry that the clustering of nonnative Atlantic salmon in farm-fish net pens could amplify the pathogen and make it more virulent or cause it to mutate into something far more deadly for wild stocks.

Now, as researchers in both countries struggle to determine if a wild fish-killing pathogen is here or coming, Morton — a Connecticut native and former killer-whale biologist — is everywhere. She’s testifying in Canadian court, blogging about viruses, shuttling about in her sea dory. She gathers farmed-fish heads at ethnic groceries and travels the province teaching groups to sample fish. She hunts for clues to support her belief that Atlantic-salmon farms are big trouble.

Her single-mindedness, bombast and memorable white mane make her a target for an industry sensitive to criticism. (One company sued an activist friend of hers for creating cartoon cigarette packs with the slogan “Salmon Farming Kills Like Smoking.”)

Morton has heard rumors fish-farm workers keep pictures of her boat thumb-tacked to their bulletin boards. The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association dedicates a Web page to correcting Morton’s statements. The B.C. government is considering making it a crime for anyone to release — or a journalist to publish — information about disease outbreaks, including on salmon farms. Fines could reach $75,000.

“Alex hides nothing about the fact that she doesn’t believe in salmon aquaculture,” says Ian Roberts, with Marine Harvest, a seafood company that raises half of B.C.’s farmed salmon. “She’ll go to any length to prove her feelings are justified.”

Already on this windy mid-May morning, Morton has trained her field glasses on a farmed-salmon pen only to find a worker staring back through binoculars. When another farmer warily pulls alongside her boat, Morton turns to her most potent weapon: charm.

“Can I help you guys at all?” he asks.

“We’re just looking,” Morton says cheerily and pumps him for information. “How old are these fish? How long have they been in the water?”

Morton extracts a few nuggets before the man jets away, a victim of Morton’s disarming agreeableness. She shrugs. “It’s not the workers I have a beef with,” she says.

Read more: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2018296338_viruslady27m.html


Justice Cohen Refuses to Re-open Commission to Examine New Salmon Virus Evidence


The following is a statement from Alexandra Morton:

(May 17, 2012)  Justice Cohen ruled today that he will not reopen his Inquiry into the Decline of the Fraser Sockeye citing the amount of work the commission team is faced with to meet the twice-delayed September 30, 2012 delivery date. The Commission notes that they have heard evidence on disease.

The application to reopen the Inquiry was made by the Aquaculture Coalition (Alexandra Morton) after discovery that nearly 100% of BC farm salmon are testing positive for the Norwegian piscine reovirus.  Research published as recently as April 12, 2012 confirms association between this virus and a disease called Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI). The application to hear evidence on this disease was supported by the First Nations Coalition, the Cheam Indian Band and Conservation Coalition.

HSMI weakens heart muscle causing heart failure in salmon.  It has spread quickly through Norway. Norwegian scientist Dr. Are Nylund reports the BC farm salmon tissue he has examined is infected with the Norwegian piscine reovirus.  The only plausible explanation for presence of this Norwegian virus in BC farm salmon is that it arrived in the 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs imported into BC since 1986 by the salmon farming industry.

Nearly 100% of Atlantic salmon bought this spring from Fairway Market in Victoria, T & T markets in Vancouver and Superstores tested positive for this heart virus.  While Mary Ellen Walling of the BC Salmon Farmers Association is quoted saying they never see the affects of this virus, Dr. Gary Marty, the BC Provincial fish farm vet, says it is common, that he found it in 75% of the farm salmon he tested in 2010.

Despite the Province of BC finding this virus in farm salmon and its reputation for being highly contagious, Dr. Michael Kent of Oregon State University, ex-director of the DFO Pacific Biological Station never even mentioned it in his Technical Report Number One which he was hired to write for the Commission titled “Infectious Disease and Potential Impacts on Survival of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon”.

 “Which is it? Common or never seen,” asks Alexandra Morton, biologist, “This has become ridiculous. I don’t believe Dr. Marty’s test results referred to in the media recently were ever submitted to the Cohen Inquiry. Certainly, ex-DFO scientist Michael Kent never even mentioned this disease, even though up to 90% of Fraser sockeye are going missing after they pass Mission. Imagine trying to swim against Hells Gate with a virus that causes heart failure? How is that going to work out for you? In my view, this is exactly the same issue as DFO never mentioning to Justice Cohen that they found European ISA virus in 100% of the Cultus Lake sockeye.  The most lethal salmon virus found in 100% of the most endangered sockeye stock and DFO never told the $26 million commission we paid for into the loss of sockeye?”

It was Dr. Gary Marty’s employer, the Province of BC, that opposed the application to reopen the Inquiry. The piscine reovirus is carried in the flesh of the fish and so it could be washed down the drain into watersheds wherever farm salmon are sold and washed prior to cooking.

 “There are European viruses in BC farm salmon and they are spreading to wild salmon. The longer BC and Canada refuse to acknowledge this, the greater the risk these viruses will ignite an epidemic that will finish off BC’s wild salmon. I understand Justice Cohen being exhausted, but that is no excuse. DFO either lied on the stand when they said there was no ISAv in BC, or they hid it from their own people, ” says Alexandra Morton, “but fact is we never heard about it until the inquiry reopened and an independent scientist sent the secret report to the Inquiry.  This cover-up is so extensive it feels hopeless. Cohen just made his report outdated before it is even released. Communities should consider becoming farm salmon-free to prevent the spread of this virus into their watersheds.”

Morton continues to test for European viruses in BC until the money runs out.


Mark Hume on Alexandra Morton’s Quixotic Battle Against Salmon Farms


Read this profile by the Globe and Mail’s Mark Hume of marine biologist Alexandra Morton’s decades-long struggle against the Norwegian open net salmon farming industry. (April 20, 2012)

Alexandra Morton sits at her kitchen table and tries to ignore the e-mails pouring in to the laptop open in front of her. She is looking out the picture window at Rough Bay, which is tranquil this morning, reflecting a vivid blue sky and the snow-capped mountains of northern Vancouver Island.

 “That’s where I want to be,” she says wistfully, as if the sea, which washes ashore 10 metres from her tiny cabin on Malcolm Island, is somehow unreachable because of the life she has chosen.

Her idea of a perfect day is to rise at dawn and head out in her boat, Blackfish Sound, wandering until she finds a tide line where a rich seam in the ocean currents is marked by a ribbon of flotsam. Then she turns off the engine and drifts with a hydrophone hung over the side of the boat.

“You can hear herring. They sound like lemons being squished. You can hear the whisk, whisk, whisk of otter feet,” she says. “You can hear whales, and you can even hear the rocks rolling on the pebble beaches.”

But the days when she can escape to that idyllic world are few, says Ms. Morton, who is tied to her computer, afraid that if she rests, she may fail at her self-appointed task of removing open-net salmon pens from coastal waters.

Read story: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/one-womans-struggle-to-save-bcs-wild-salmon/article2409621/  


Alexandra Morton Wins Tyee’s “People’s Order of BC”


Check out the Tyee’s “People’s Order of BC” winners – including top vote-getter Alexandra Morton.

“And that’s what we monkeys did here at The Tyee a couple of weeks ago. We launched
a new award called The People’s Order of B.C., a cheeky response to the
controversy surrounding this year’s actual Order of B.C. selections
where we asked you to nominate and then vote for your favourites…Originally from Connecticut, Alexandra Morton is a marine biologist best
known these days for her studies focusing on the impact of salmon
farming in the waters off British Columbia. Not only did Morton garner
the most votes, but she also garnered the most nominations — 20 in
total.” (October 31, 2011)

Read article: http://thetyee.ca/Tyeenews/2011/10/31/Peoples-Order-Winners/

Professor Rick Routledge of SFU

US Senators Demand Action on Salmon Virus While BC Counterparts Go Into Denial Mode


Two items came across my desk yesterday that, taken together, illustrate just how embarrassingly backward our BC Liberal government is when it comes to matters of the environment.

One was a transcript from the BC Legislature, wherein NDP Fisheries Critic Michael Sather’s concerns about the discovery of a deadly European strain of Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) in wild BC sockeye are egregiously downplayed by his Liberal counterpart, Agriculture Minister Don MacRae. The other was a story in the Seattle Times, documenting the calls for emergency action from 3 high profile US Senators in neighbouring Alaska and Washington State over the very same issue.

Here’s what Washington’s Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell had to say: “We need to act now to protect the Pacific Northwest’s coastal economy and jobs. Infectious salmon anemia could pose a serious threat to Pacific Northwest wild salmon and the thousands of Washington state jobs that rely on them. We have to get a coordinated game plan in place to protect our salmon and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

Now here’s a transcript of what transpired in the BC Legislature on the same day US lawmakers were sounding the alarm – I’m including a significant chunk of this exchange because it so perfectly illustrates how out of touch this BC Liberal Government continues to be on the salmon farming issue, among many others:

M. Sather (NDP Fisheries Critic): The infectious salmon anemia virus has been discovered in wild salmon in Rivers Inlet. This is a potentially devastating disease that hasn’t been reported before in the North Pacific. The Chilean farming industry was devastated by this same virus: $2 billion in losses, production cut by half and 26,000 people laid off.

We have a lot more to be concerned about here in British Columbia as well. We have our world-renowned sport-fishing industry, our commercial industry and our First Nations food fishery.

Now, Dr. James Winton, who leads the fish health research group at the Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, called this outbreak a “disease emergency.” My question to the Minister of Agriculture is: does he agree with the assessment of Dr. Winton?

Hon. D. McRae (BC Liberal Agriculture Minister): Well, we’ve got another example of spinning media headlines and fearmongering from the opposition.

The reality is this. The lab results were sent to PEI. They were not following protocol when, instead of actually contacting CFIA, they went directly to SFU, which in turn went to the media.

When CFIA then, in turn, said, “We’d like to do our test samples,” and said, “We’d like to test the fish,” well, unfortunately, I’m advised that the tested-positive results at the PEI lab were destroyed, and therefore, not available to CFIA….

….M. Sather: Well, in my time in this House that has got to be one of the worst answers I have ever heard. The minister is really making a mistake in going this route.

Those fish were tested by the World Organisation for Animal Health. Now, if the minister wants to quibble with the worldwide body that’s responsible for fish health, go ahead — fill your boots — but you’re making a big mistake. And you’re making a big mistake about not taking what’s happening to our fish, our wild fish, our salmon farm fish in this province…You’re not taking it seriously, Minister, and you ought to be ashamed and apologize right now.

Mr. Sather is right. Dr. Fred Kibenge, who did the testing, is a man of peerless credibility on this matter. Out of the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of PEI, he runs one of only two labs in the world approved by the OIE (the world animal health organization) to report ISAv. It is his lab that diagnosed and reported the Chilean outrbreak of ISAv several years ago. Mr. Sather is correct to suggest that questioning Dr. Kibenge’s credentials is a dead end for those who are foolish enough to pursue it.

As to Mr. MacRae’s other insinuations, I interviewed salmon biologist Alexandra Morton – who has been working with Professor Rick Routledge of SFU, who collected and forwarded the samples – by phone this morning and here’s what she told me about the testing procedure:

This past Spring, Prof. Routledge, concerned about low numbers of out-migrating smolts in the area of Rivers Inlet, collected 199 smolt samples to be tested at a later date. He had no idea at the time some of these fish would come back positive for ISAv.

The fish were stored in a freezer through the summer. In October the hearts of 48 of these fish were removed by Prof. Routledge’s assistant and sent directly to Dr. Kibenge’s lab (each test costs upwards of $40 and this is an operation with little to no funds, so only a quarter of the fish were tested). Under these circumstances, the heart was the most reliable piece of tissue on which to perform the testing.

Now, these are very small fish with very small hearts, so Dr. Kibenge used up all the tissue in the testing process. This contradicts what the BC Liberal Agriculture Minister alleged yesterday – that the samples were “destroyed”, which implies a cover-up of some nature. That’s simply not the case. As soon as the test results were confirmed, Dr. Kibenge alerted the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), as per his legal responsibility.

Furthermore, earlier this week, officials from the CFIA showed up at Prof. Routledge’s SFU lab and confiscated the remaining 151 untested fish from the lab’s freezer. We can only assume they now have these fish in their possession, hearts and all.

All Prof. Routledge appears to have done is collected fish samples, where neither senior level of government would, and forwarded them to the top expert in North America for testing – which, in turn, revealed the devastating fact that a European strain of the deadly ISAv in now infecting BC’s wild sockeye.

Those are the facts.

Here are some more facts that shed light on the Province’s defensiveness. It is the BC Government that has been responsible for auditing fish health on salmon farms, up until the transfer of aquaculture jurisdiction to the federal government in January of this year. Incidentally, there is no evidence of any auditing process by any government body since April 2010 – when the fish farmers told the Province they no longer “required” its services (i.e., “Go away.”) And because fish health auditing is not a licensing requirement for the farms, they got away with it.

One man, Dr. Gary Marty, was responsible for the autopsies of fish from the farms in BC. The only person he ever showed his results to was Dr. Mark Sheppard, formerly of the Province as well. It was Sheppard who acted as the buffer between the raw data and what other government bodies and the public got to see.

The point is that much of what we’re discussing here is on the BC Government’s watch – which, like I say, may help explain their appalling defensiveness on the ISAv matter.

One other note, the person responsible for testing wild fish health in BC, Dr. Christine MacWilliams, asserted recently at the Cohen Commission on collapsing Fraser River sockeye, that if ISAv ever did show up in BC, it would be coming from fish farms – not from the wild. The fact that this is most definitely a European strain of ISAv should remove all doubt that this disease now hitting BC’s wild salmon comes from the fish farm industry.

What is gauling in the BC Agriculture Minister’s response to this crisis is his government’s utter disregard for the Precautionary Principle. US lawmakers are correct in their response – it’s time to go into emergency mode, not to bicker about testing protocols and worry about butt-covering.

Alexandra Morton is now calling for Dr. Kibenge to be provided the resources to come out to BC and set up an emergency lab on Vancouver Island to begin testing all species of wild and farmed salmon, as well as herring.

That’s a sound recommendation which both federal and provincial governments would do well to adopt post haste.

This is no longer a matter to leave to our backward, incompetent, self-interested BC Liberal Government. This is an international issue of grave import, as our neighbours to the south and north are reminding us. We have a duty to work with them to address this matter with the utmost sense of urgency.

As Michael Sather said, unlike the devastation of Chile by ISAv – which I personally documented in 2009 in my film “Farrmed Salmon Exposed” (Chile chapter begins at 2 min mark) – we have much more than the destruction of the aquaculture industry to worry about. This is about our wild salmon, which my colleague Rafe Mair aptly refers to as “the soul of our province.”


Deadly Salmon Virus Found in BC Makes Headlines Around the World – Including this New York Times Story


Read this story from the New York Times on the recent discovery of wild Pacific sockeye infected with the European strain of the deadly ISA virus.

“A lethal and highly contagious marine virus has been detected for the
first time in wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, researchers in
British Columbia said on Monday, stirring concern that it could spread there, as it has in Chile, Scotland and elsewhere. Farms hit by the virus, infectious salmon anemia, have lost 70 percent
or more of their fish in recent decades. But until now, the virus, which
does not affect humans, had never been confirmed on the West Coast of
North America”. (Oct. 17, 2011)



Mark Hume on Cohen, DFO’s conflicting mandate to protect wild salmon while promoting aquaculture


Read Mark Hume’s take in the Globe and Mail on yesterday’s pivotal session at the Cohen Commission into disappearing Fraser sockeye.

“Brock Martland, associate commission counsel, set the stage for a
free-wheeling debate when he opened with ‘a big question,’ asking the
panel if they thought DFO could successfully both regulate and promote
the aquaculture industry, while protecting wild salmon stocks. ‘I
don’t believe that’s possible … those two [mandates] are in conflict,’
shot back Ms. Stewart, who believes the industry damages wild salmon by
spreading sea lice and disease. She said the regulation of fish
farms should be handed off to some other federal agency, such as
Agriculture Canada or Industry Canada, while DFO should be charged with
managing and protecting wild salmon.” (Sept 7, 2011)