October 11, 2016
Dear Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc:
Thank you for your reply of October 5, 2016. I am replying in an open letter.
I am not sure if you are aware how inappropriate it appears when you state that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) altered the test for ISA virus in salmon and since then the virus cannot be detected in BC.
The CFIA is a troubled agency:
“Critics have since complained that the CFIA is in a conflict of interest because it is responsible for food safety and promoting Canadian food abroad as part of trade missions.”[i]
In 2011, the CFIA testified at the Cohen Commission that confirmation of ISA virus in BC would close world markets to BC farmed salmon and yet you are advised to trust the agency mandated to protect trade, and ignore your own research lab’s conflicting results.
This raises a lot of questions. Foremost, what is the science behind the difference in results and what test is the CFIA using, because they do not offer that information. All scientists working ISA virus offer details on the test, including in the paper I co-published on ISA virus in BC. The CFIA must meet this standard to be credible. You can’t just say we changed the test and now ISA virus is not in BC.
Recently, I co-published a scientific review paper that measured farm salmon disease risk to sockeye salmon against the test provided by Justice Bruce Cohen - should salmon farms should cease operations in the Discovery Islands. The evidence, largely DFO’s own science, suggests we are dangerously past the early warning phase - salmon farms are critically harming wild salmon.[ii]
I am doing my part as a scientist, publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals and I continue to hope that you have the open mind of a fair and just government. In my view, your letter puts your reputation as Fisheries Minister at risk. If the test for an internationally reportable virus is altered, producing a commerce-friendly result you cannot simply disregard your department’s previous results with no explanation.
There are made-in-Canada solutions to the farm salmon/wild salmon conflict that would command global respect and attention for both, while strengthening Canada’s relationship with First Nations, the economy and the environment we all depend on. With the Fraser River Panel reporting the 2016 sockeye run-size is the lowest level ever in 123 years of counting, DFO’s record is not defensible. You have a problem, you need to do something, something has to change. Wild salmon in BC are heading the way of the cod on your watch.
I have been asking to meet with you for almost a year. There are only three teams studying farm salmon virus interaction with wild fish in BC and I am with the only non-government team. I don’t see why the Federal Liberal government of Canada is refusing to hear from Canadian scientists who are publishing on this issue in leading international scientific journals and offering solutions to this growing problem.
In my view, DFO could restore wild salmon and build a highly competitive, landbased Canadian aquaculture industry by speaking to the Canadians already pioneering this solution to a global problem with salmon farming, but DFO currently on a path causing suffering, poverty, massive environmental damage and conflict. What is the risk in talking to us?
The Department of Wild Salmon is a concept to restore wild salmon bringing together science, First Nations and society to use the fish as the guide to strategically removing human-caused harm.