April 5, 2016
To the Honourable Minister Hunter Tootoo Min.XNCR@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Thank you for your response of April 5, 2016. I am sorry that you won’t meet with me. I would like to better state my case.
Indeed, you have been given an excellent mandate, but I have reason for concern that the bureaucratic structure you inherited may be having difficulty making the transition. As a result, I feel it would benefit Canadians for you to hear directly from people like myself who are on the frontlines of fisheries research in Canada.
Here is my evidence:
First as you note, a DFO scientist did communicate with my co-authors regarding the paper “Discovery of variant infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) of European genotype in British Columbia, Canada.” However, are you aware that Virology Journal was asked by a DFO scientist to “retract” the paper?
Ideally, debate on scientific publications is public, to the benefit of science and society. But in this case DFO sought to quietly remove the paper from public view.
This is precisely the sort of disregard for scientific process that Canadian scientists were so hopeful would cease with the election of your Liberal government.
Second, regarding my opportunity to meet with DFO to discuss the state of scientific knowledge on farm-origin sea lice and wild salmon. As my colleagues and I sat through that meeting, DFO failed to reveal they had evidence that drug resistance was developing in sea lice in Musgamagw Dzawda’enuxw territory before the 2015 outbreak that killed ~ 20% of the salmon leaving the rivers of their territory.
This lack of transparency is signature behaviour of the previous government with First Nations and Canadians suffering direct negative consequences.
Third, do you realize that the Minister of Fisheries is named as co-appellant with Marine Harvest in appealing a lawsuit that struck down portions of the DFO transfer permit? Specifically, the court ruled that the salmon farming industry must not be permitted to transfer young farmed salmon infected with disease-causing pathogens into marine net pens. The judge ruled such a transfer contravenes the Fisheries Act.
Where is the valid scientific argument to allow millions of Atlantic salmon infected with disease – causing pathogens to be placed in the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon that are so important to Canadians and are in critical decline?
This appeal was initiated during the previous government and I cannot reconcile DFO’s continued participation with your mandate. Please drop this appeal or explain to Canadians how disease-carrying Atlantic salmon on Pacific salmon migration routes is a scientifically sound benefit to us.
These are some of the issues I had hoped to speak with you about, as well as, the risks DFO is taking that threaten trade in Canadian seafood.
In fairness to your staff, I suspect it is confusing to receive a new mandate when the day-to-day pressures on the ground remain the same. That is why it is critical that you do not insulate yourself from scientists.
Minister Tootoo there are remarkable advances that resolve the endless turmoil of salmon farm impact on wild salmon. These advances benefit the economy, would make Canada a leader in aquaculture and wild fish restoration and pioneer an honest, respectful, cooperative relationship with the First Nations of Canada. These are very real solutions, some buried and muted within your own department. Clearly there are problems. BC’s wild fisheries are in serious trouble while salmon farming is facing catastrophic social and ecological issues globally.
Respectfully, I feel you need to crack open the doors and windows and allow in fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Speak with scientists who embrace the brilliant mandate you have been given and explore a better way for Canada to prosper from her rich coastlines. Status quo appears blind to what is now possible.
Minister Hunter Tootoo, I suspect you have not been accurately briefed on me or the thousands of people who share my view that we could have a much better relationship with the salmon that built the soil of this province and feed the trees that make the oxygen we breath.
Department of Wild Salmon is a concept that brings together First Nation Fishery teams, DFO’s capacity for genomic profiling and Canadian university mathematical modellers to embark on the first ever truly adaptive management of wild fish. It would make Canada a leader and bring prosperity to Canadians.
All that I ask is that you hear what is possible. Please meet with me.
Alexandra Morton, Gwayum’dzi