Vancouver Sun Op-ed: Fraser Sockeye Dying of Politics


Read this op-ed in The Vancouver Sun by Dr. Craig Orr and Stan Proboszcz of Watershed Watch, which provides a compelling summary in the wake of the Cohen Commission of the political dynamics threatening Fraser River sockeye. (Dec 27, 2011)

Sockeye are plagued by a lack of food, lax pollution standards, ineffective habitat protection efforts, archaic water laws, harmful hydro impacts, unjustified riverbed mining, a “modernized” Fisheries Act, illegal fishing, subpar catch monitoring, and debilitating climate change. Unlucky Oncorhynchus nerka must also swim a gauntlet of non-selective nets, predators, toxic algae blooms, and pathogen-bearing fish farms — all for an increasingly slim chance to spawn and die.

If these stresses weren’t troubling enough, the federal review of Fraser sockeye woes recently reopened to testimony about positive tests for the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAv) in wild and farmed salmon. Indeed, despite vigorous government assurances to the contrary, compelling evidence suggests this virus has been here for some time. Governments’ reaction to the news — and to leaks that they had known of a possible virus for nearly a decade — prompts one to fear that wild salmon ranked disturbingly low on their list of priorities.

Reaction to reports of a virus associated with salmon farms predictably meant strident denial among Canada’s regulators, followed by something more insidious. Governments seemed less inclined to act on disease and public concerns, and more intent on firing back at the scientists who reported ISAv positives. Judge Bruce Cohen was told scientists felt “intimidated,” “attacked,” and “alienated.” Samples were seized, methods publicly questioned, labs audited. Fisheries ministers unleashed media releases chastising highly accredited academics for “reckless behaviour” and “unsound science.”

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