The people of Canada expect Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to be the government agency in charge of protecting wild fish. Well, you should know this is not DFO's mandate (see below) and the sooner we recognize this and respond, the better our hope for life continuing in the oceans that lap against the shores of Canada.
Not only is protection of wild fish nowhere on DFO's to-do list, they are actively hiding the information needed to keep wild salmon alive. This is not honest and does not benefit Canadians present or future. As I see it, there is a chronic problem - the errosion and diminishing of democracy in Canada and an acute problem - salmon farms as industrial disease breeding facilities placed in the heart of wild salmon habitat. Below I offer the evidence and what can be done, but I want to say up front, that unless you arm me with the resources to take this to the markets, we are not going to be able to stop the flood of disease pouring over wild salmon as they travel the coastline of BC. I hate asking for money, but unless we take this fight to the consumer we will continue to fall victim to the indifference of the governments in power. This has to reach wide and far wherever people are buying the farmed salmon that use the BC coast as an industrial waste site. Fund the campaign to educate the public about what they are doing when they put farmed salmon in their mouths. It is going to be highly professional.
DFO's Mandate "Biotechnology" Who Knew?
At some point in the recent past protection of wild fish was removed from the stated purpose of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Instead they are protecting exports, trade, aquaculture and biotechnology. Mission, Vision and Values
Fisheries and Oceans Canada supports in this order:
- economic growth,and trade
- aquaculture and biotechnology and
- and merely "contributes" to sustainable ecosystems.
How did "biotechnology" get on this list? Biotechnology is the manipulation of biological processes for industrial uses.
The salmon farming industry is producing genetically modified salmon eggs, - biotechnology. Apparently that is a high priority for DFO.
While DFO has been clear and upfront that the "fish" in Fisheries Canada, are not wild fish, they go one step further. It would appear DFO is actually hiding the information required to protect wild salmon. When a federal agency changes its mandate, it is our responsibility to respond if we feel the new mandate is damaging to the country. But hiding information, that we paid to generate is a whole different category of government behaviour.
Is this really Canada?
Judge for yourself:
July 2011 A DFO scientist publishes ground-breaking results, finally a solid clue why millions of Fraser sockeye are dying - a virus suggesting salmon leukemia a farm salmon disease. The Privy Council Office stops this scientist from talking to international media attracted to this work and DFO cancels the funding for this research (Cohen Commission testimony).
December 2011- senior DFO scientist testifies 100% of the most endangered Fraser sockeye (Cultus) tested positive for ISA virus in 2004, the most lethal European salmon virus known, spreading wherever Atlantic salmon are farmed. He hid this information from the Cohen Commission, never returned to Cultus to learn more, never informed the Soowahlie Indian Band, and never even reported this highly - significant finding to the Cultus sockeye recovery team.
April 2013 - Documents stating 11 Fraser sockeye populations are in serious trouble were withheld from the Cohen Commission and the fisheries managers tasked with setting the 2013 catch limits. This meant these stocks were not protected in 2013.
October 2013 - The Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea, announces she will not lift the moratorium on aquaculture development in B.C.'s Discovery Islands for the foreseeable future. But this promise did not last long.
November 2013 - Canada approves commercial production of genetically modified salmon eggs, (biotechnology splicing in Chinook salmon and eel genes to make a fast-growing Atlantic salmon). This is so controversial, the eggs were shipped into the mountains of Panama for hatching.
December 2013 - Canada removes the Cohen Commission website from the internet. It housed thousands of exhibits, the technical reports, the recommendations and hundreds of hours of testimony. The site can still largely be found here.
January 2014 - DFO closes fisheries libraries discarding data collected by generations of Canadian scientists. By "culling" this information the changes occuring to Canada's river, lakes and ocean can no longer be reported.
January 2014 - DFO opens the BC coast to more salmon farms, completely ignoring the Cohen Commission recommendation to examine whether existing salmon farms are on the Fraser sockeye migration routes and remove them. The process of expanding and siting new farms is a shady business, giving the public 30 days to comment, but providing an email address that does not work.
February 25, 2014 - DFO informs Fisheries Senate Committee that Section 36 of the Fisheries Act needs to go because it is a "very critical impediment to further operation of the aquaculture industry" i.e that releasing chemicals harmful to fish is essential to salmon farming. DFO implies they are working to remove this foundation of the Fisheries Act to accomodate the small number of salmon farmers operating Canada.
March 27, 2014 - Fisheries Senate Committee comes to BC to learn about salmon farming so they can decide whether to recommend an Aquaculture Act, but in a stunning show of bias openly promote salmon farming.
April 2014 - Salmon farmers begin using hydrogen peroxide bath treatmentsin BC to try and deal with their lice. All of the chemical used is released into the ocean even though there has been no assessment on whether this will kill the tiny juvenile wild salmon swimming past salmon farms on their migration routes at this time of year (see page 18).
April 16, 2014 - Canada slashes red tape to facilitate four-fold increase in salmon farms, even though the industry is not even operating at the capacity they are currently allowed. The industry has been shrinking, but tell government they need more and bigger sites.
April 18, 2014 - We learn that one of the highest offices in Canada, the Privy Council, hid a report written by DFO staff who mistakenly thought they were supposed to respond to the $26 million Cohen Commission recommendations to protect Fraser sockeye.
On one of their many web-pages, DFO claims, "the Department is guided by the principles of sound scientific knowledge and effective management." However, in reality the evidence suggests they are destroying and hiding the information generated by their staff that could restore wild salmon.
What do we do about this?
1. The accute problem - impact of disease on wild salmon
To lessen exposure to disease in wild salmon, our only option is to remove salmon farms from wild salmon migration routes. Nobody in their right mind allows wild animals to mingle with feedlot pathogens, whether we are talking about chickens, deer, bison or fish. Feedlots remove all the natural disease control mechanisms. It is well known feedlots have made pathogens more virulent. Farmers try to keep livestock alive long enough to reach market-size by using drugs, but this does not help wild salmon which must remain in top physical condition, as supreme athletes to survive.
2. The chronic problem - Canada is not interested in wild salmon
The chronic problem, that Canada is not interested in wild salmon, can only be fixed through democracy. We have to find candidates that will reinstate wild fish as a Canadian priority and work to get that person elected. Then we have to stay with these politicians through thick and thin to make sure he/she is doing what they said to get elected. There have been cases where politicians have campaigned using tough talk about salmon farming, but once elected turn around and help the industry expand, such as in the case of an NDP premier of Nova Scotia.
What About The Province of BC?
Every salmon farm in BC needs a Licence of Occupation from the Province of BC. In March 2013, Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick is quoted in an article titled:
As the industry pushes DFO for more and larger salmon farms, British Columbians have a ringside seat on whether the provincial position was just talk, like Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announcing last October that there would be no expansion in the "foreseeable future," or did BC mean it.
What does salmon farming do for BC?
Salmon farming is shrinking in BC even as they insist they need more sites:
For 2012, the last available year statistics are available, salmon farmers produced 73,700 tonnes of fish, an 11-per-cent decrease from 2011.
Salmon farming is increasingly mechanised - it is hard to argue that this about jobs, when the wild fishery is much larger and at risk, according to the Cohen Commission, from salmon farming.
I recently wrote to the Premier of BC about the applications for two new salmon farms. The reply from BC was to deny that the problematic website advertising the two new sites was a federal website. Check it out for yourself - it sure looks like a Province of BC website!
This is getting ridiculous.
Here is important action you can take:
- Sign this petition to the Premier of BC
- Don't eat farmed salmon (if it has white stripes is it farmed) and tell your market, sushi restaurant, friends and family why.
- Contribute to reaching the consumers of salmon farmed in BC. There is no big organization on this, it is up to us. Donate to Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society