Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Key Document: DR. Kristi Miller - Diseases and Fish Farms, Nov 2016

See the Watershed Watch Salmon Society video of Dr. Kristi Miller: Then sign the petition to get fish farms out of our ocean to protect wild salmon:

Kristi Miller is the research geneticist who came up with the 'viral signature' work that identified salmon that were dying and were associated with disease, prespawn mortality, for example. This was most important in the Cohen Commission disease hearings and as one who witnessed her agree with lawyer McDade that fish farms diseases could be 'the smoking gun' it was palpably emotionally significant as you watched her face understand what she had just said.

Moving forward, in the Nov 2016 Parliamentary committee on fisheries, and the Fisheries Act, she spoke at length. Here is part of what she said about fish farms and disease. Note that DFO itself is conflicted with fish farms as her senior manager makes clear. This is neoliberalism at work, as in let's make businesses work and disregard the externalities like all wild Pacific salmon dying.

"In British Columbia there is considerable public debate on the risks that salmon aquaculture poses to our wild salmon. Given pressures from ENGOs, fishers, first nations, the scientific community, and the public, and the declining productivity of large numbers of our wild salmon stocks, it's imperative that the regulations put in place to assure minimal impacts of aquaculture on wild stocks are strongly evidence-based, and that the research to understand these risks be transparent, objective, and independent of influence from industry. It is also important that as regulators, we are not afraid to ask questions and conduct research that may unearth findings that are not immediately convenient to industry and may require us to rework policies to ensure minimal risk. 

When I started down this path of research in 2012, I was told by an upper manager, who's no longer with the department, that it was irresponsible to ask research questions that could potentially result in negative economic ramifications on an industry if we did not already know the answer. At the time, my lab was developing very powerful technology that could simultaneously quantitate 47 different pathogens—viruses, bacteria, and fungal parasites—in 96 fish at once. We had populated this platform with assays to virtually all the infectious agents that were known or suspected to be pathogenic in salmon worldwide, including many that were associated with emerging diseases in other parts of the world but that had never been assessed in Canada. The manager was concerned that by employing this technology, we would make our salmon [she means farmed salmon] in B.C. look dirty, and impact their economic value in the market, and that if we uncovered agents that were not known to be endemic, ENGOs and the public would immediately point to the aquaculture industry as the culprit. As such, the attitude was don't look closely, especially for things that we didn't know already were there. It took almost two years to get approval to go ahead with this technology, which we are now employing on over 26,000 wild, enhanced, and farmed salmon in B.C."

And: "Since 2015 there have been great inroads undertaken by the department to move to a more science evidence-based approach to policy development. I wholeheartedly applaud these efforts, but it can be difficult when the department continues to carry a dual role as a regulator and an advocate. At a working level, I remain concerned that there is continued reluctance by scientists, veterinarians, most of whom have strong ties to the industry, and managers to ask questions and undertake research that might not turn out favourably for the industry. The level of DFO consultation with industry remains very high. While this can be a good thing, in my view when we are addressing risk assessments, regulators and researchers need to have objective independence from industry." 

And: "At present, the department relies heavily on information that the industry provides to determine, for example, what pathogens and diseases to focus risk assessments on. There are not, to date, any provisions to enable scientists to conduct risk assessments to sample fish on farms unless the industry agrees to provide them. With those agreements, the industry generally retains some level of control over how the information is analyzed and interpreted. The exception is the regulatory audit program, whereby the aquaculture management division collects samples of normal daily mortalities from farms that are randomly selected for sampling. When the industry was regulated by the Province of B.C., they had a right of refusal to provide these samples, but that changed when the federal government took the lead. My research program is the first to be allowed access to these audit samples for research purposes, and I'm extremely..."

And: "In my view, it's difficult to convince a skeptical public that we are doing everything we can to conduct robust, transparent, evidence-based risk assessments on aquaculture-wild interactions if we do not maintain independence from industry and if scientists and managers must seek permission from industry to utilize their fish. By maintaining this reliance, and the industry's right of refusal, there is a real risk that we won't be able to ask the tough questions—for instance, are there emerging diseases not covered under OIE regulations that the industry may either not know about or are not compelled to reveal? At present, less than 40% of mortalities on farms are diagnosed to specific disease agents. Some may not be infectious, but others may simply not be specifically recognized."

In other words, fish farms are: The Smoking Gun.
Do I expect change? No, but let's hope for it because DFO and neoliberalism are killing wild Pacific salmon, which is wrong. We need fisheries management to move to BC and for it to remain here. DFO needs to be taken out of the equation, as does the CFIA. The issue in this is conflict of interest, and the scientist herself has pointed this out. 


At 17:20 Fin Donnelly, BC asks about a new disease. 

Saunders answers: "We found evidence of a disease that is considered the third most important emerging disease in Norwegian salmon. We have not yet demonstrated whether it impacts wild fish, merely that a disease that had not previously been diagnosed in B.C. actually is present there."

This would be PRV and HSMI. Note that fish farms, always claim there is no disease in the more than a dozen countries they operate in, as does the conflicted government, in this case, DFO and the CFIA. Then, when the disease is found - and the semantic issue of virus/disease is contorted - they say, "Darn and, well, golly gosh, we'll have to learn to live with it, I guess."

This is the ongoing pattern around the world, in their fish farm communications spin. Chile being an example.

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