Early on the morning of September 26th I was scrolling through the online news and came across this headline in Norwegian - Marine Harvest plaintiff Alexandra Morton. It was a bit of a surprise to read in the Norwegian news that Marine Harvest is suing me, without any contact from Marine Harvest. I realized that this Norwegian headline reported on me by name, not as a Canadian scientist/activist or some other generic term. They apparently know me in the home country of the three Norwegian salmon farmers who use BC to grow Atlantic salmon and they felt it was important to get the news out ASAP that they had sued me.
Next I got a call from CBC news. They had a copy of the court document referenced in the Norwegian paper and posted it online - Marine Harvest's Notice of Civil Claim.
While I am on the only person named, Marine Harvest cast their net wide including John and Jane Doe seemingly at any Marine Harvest site. I see this as an attempt to make us afraid to stand up to this industry to protect wild salmon.
The photograph in the Norwegian news article is from a film shot with a GoPro camera of the fish in a Marine Harvest pen in Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw territory. This short film "Hard Evidence" has received 1,029,062 views on Facebook, below is the YouTube version and it is the first hard evidence that farm salmon are eating wild fish that have become trapped in pens. This is something that has been denied over the years and represents and unregulated by-catch of wild fish of enormous magnitude.
There are also images of Atlantic salmon barely moving along the edge of the net. They look in poor health, their behaviour fits the disease Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation - a disease that has spread throughout Norway and appears to be in BC as well. Most BC farm salmon are infected with the virus associated with this disease - piscine reovirus - My view, based on tracking where this virus is appearing, is that this virus is very dangerous to BC wild salmon. The concern here is that whatever is harming the fish in the pens is also harming the fish outside the pen. While we can see the sick fish in the pens, we don't get a chance to see sick wild fish because the predators are so good at removing them and thus preventing disease outbreaks.
Published new scientific paper
As Marine Harvest filed this lawsuit, I co-published a paper on the evidence that salmon farms are a significant risk to Fraser River sockeye salmon.
The Cohen Commission into the decline of the Fraser River sockeye salmon made 75 recommendations, 11 of these are directed at the salmon farming industry. Recommendation #19 states salmon farms in the Discovery Islands off Campbell River should cease to operate if DFO can not prove that the salmon farms in that area are not a greater than minimal risk of serious harm to the health of the sockeye.
My co-author, Dr Rick Routledge, and I gathered all the science available on the impact of farm salmon disease on sockeye salmon in the Discovery Islands. We reviewed the salmon leukemia outbreaks in salmon farms, and the death of millions of Fraser sockeye from a virus with linkages to leukemia, as well as the information on the IHN virus outbreaks in salmon farms, sea lice, piscine reovirus and ISA virus.
The paper concludes:
“…the evidence is unambiguous. Salmon farms in the region of the Discovery Islands generate greater than minimal risk of serious harm to Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.”
Only ~ 800,000 sockeye returned to the Fraser River to spawn this year, according the Fraser River Panel, the lowest run size ever since counting began in 1893. The measure of whether the Cohen Commission was successful or not can only be the number of sockeye salmon returning. The goal was to produce more salmon, but now there are less.
Alaska enjoyed a sockeye return 26% higher than forecast and Russia also benfited from greater than anticipated salmon returns. All these salmon feed in the North Pacific, but Russia and Alaska do not have salmon farms. DFO is failing Canadians.
DFO scientists predicted the North Atlantic cod stocks would collapse, and now DFO and other scientists are warning that salmon farms are a significant risk to the Fraser sockeye. Canada ignored the cod scientists, are they going to ignore their salmon scientists and rob future generations again?
There is nothing more significant that I can do as a scientist than to publish my conclusions in peer-reviewed journals. But it is never enough. Government finds a way to ignore everything that reveals the true cost of net pen salmon farms, that we are sacrificing our wild fish, for this dirty, little, flash-in-the-pan industry.
In May DFO was planning to join Marine Harvest in court to appeal the court decision I won in 2015. They planned to make it easier for the industry to transfer diseased fish into net pens. But DFO suddenly asked for a 5-month adjournment when a DFO scientist reported evidence that the salmon heart disease, HSMI, was in a BC fish farm. You see they had argued that piscine reovirus was harmless in BC, and this was evidence to the contrary. Well the 5-month adjournment is over this month and I am still waiting to hear whether DFO is going to withdraw from this truly shameful appeal or not.
This summer many salmon in the farms were exhibiting classic heart - disease behaviour - floating with their faces looking out of the nets. Below is a comparison of HSMI affected fish in Chile and what Atlantic salmon look like in a BC salmon farm. Both groups of fish are underweight for farm salmon and they are not swimming. I may be getting sued for shooting this video, but the fact remains farm fish behaving like this represent an enormous risk to wild salmon.
Atlantic salmon exhibit HSMI in Chile
Atlantic salmon in BC behave like HSMI fish
Will DFO follow through with their appeal in Federal Court to allow the salmon farmers to transfer disease-carrying farm fish into net pens on our wild salmon migration routes? They adjourned this appeal last June until October when a DFO scientist reported Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation in farmed salmon in the Discovery Islands.
Marine Harvest is suing me while DFO has joined in an appeal to make it easier for Marine Harvest to transfer fish carrying disease into salmon farms on the migration routes of our collapsing wild salmon populations. Something very wrong is going on here. In the film below I state it is still not illegal to protect life on earth, I am going to be ground-truthing that statement in court with Marine Harvest.
in an appeal with Marine Harvest against a legal decision I won to prevent transfer of diseased farm fish into marine net pens while Canada's Fraser sockeye salmon slide rapidly towards collapse.
Who decided wild salmon would go the way of the buffalo? I am going to need your help, because while it is not yet illegal to protect life on earth, it feels like it is headed that way.