Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sockeye Can't Catch Fish Farm Viruses? - Well, NO

DFO has been spreading untrue info, or at least, the press has reported DFO spreading untrue information. What has been said is that sockeye can't catch fish farm viruses. So, no problem right? Well, no. the real story is that DFO has come out with text that says sockeye can't catch IHN from farmed salmon that have been vaccinated against IHN. That is quite a different thing. 

Fish are not vaccinated as we are with a shot to the arm, er, fin of every human/fish. It can be injected, which is costly, as it is for IHN, but the vaccine can be put in their feed, or an immersion bath and that is a far cry from vaccination as we do it in humans. And all that DFO can mean is that a vaccinated fish can't get the disease. But what it doesn't add is the obvious thing that makes the intention of this announcement simply for its spin value: the fish can pass the same virus on to other fish even when it doesn't get sick itself.

Furthermore, there are several dozen fish farm viruses, bacteria, parasites, lice, etc. that wild fish can catch from fish farm fish, so the story should not have been released and made to sound like the problem with fish farms is all over. The announcement should not have been made and should not have been reported on.

An example is the Jan 10, 2018 article in the TC newspaper, which is a follow up piece to the original news that made the rounds a week earlier. The article is: Scientist pans fish disease review, by Amy Smart. It's enough to make someone cynical. Listen up:

Stan Proboszcz, science adviser for Watershed Watch says the process lacked transparency, and scientists were not allowed to read a fish farm company fish management report that DFO used to make this announcement.

"That's contradictory to the peer review process," he said and is a complete lack of transparency. And, you should know that Stan was on the DFO steering committee that gives scientific advice to DFO; however, if you can believe it, were not given the report to read, only a summary of the agreement, that companies would allow their fish to be tested. That is quite a different thing from the actual research document. The agreement is not about science, only giving permission to use fish.

Yes, DFO puffed up its chest and said it is only one 'robust' investigation underway (of 10, or so it says) to prove that fish farm diseases are harmless to wild salmon. Is it just me that thinks they have this backward? Doesn't it just continue what Cohen told them not to do, and make sure to take out fish farm cheer leading from DFO entirely, as it is incompatible with its primary role under the Wild Salmon Policy?

Calling it robust is silly. That is spin. It's obvious that vaccinating someone's fish would mean most shouldn't get disease and the farm would not be leaking 56 billion viral particles per hour, but noting that the fish were vaccinated is a million miles away from doing robust science.

What about all the research, by DFO, for instance, that Fraser sockeye are dying from pre-spawn mortality, have PRV, and that DFO scientist Kristi Miller showed that PRV causes HSMI, something that fish farms, BCMAL, the testing system, and DFO continue to deny? That's the real story here, that DFO is in a conflict of interest.

Smart's article notes one of the typical non-transparencies in fish farm issues - one should always assume that where a fish farm says it is transparent, that you should add the 'non' in front of the word. The Cohen requirement for the disease tables in his Commission is an example: he asked for disease tables, fish farms sent in lawyers (standard practice) to argue he should not get them, he required them anyway, and fish farms trumpeted how transparent they were, then Cohen required individual disease sheets, not simply summary documents and they sent in the lawyers again, saying he did not have authority to require them. He required them anyway and that led off the explosive third disease section of the proceedings.

During that session the best scientists, Miller, Nylund and Kibenge, noted how bad the DFO and CFIA labs were, including the Winnipeg, Gagne lab. And poor Kim Klottins from the CFIA got cornered into saying it didn't want to find disease because that would affect the exportability of the fish, to the USA for instance. Another riveting moment was when Miller said that fish farms could be 'the smoking gun'. The look on her face when she realized what she had just said was worth the price tag of the $36 Million commission.

Now, back to the current story. So, what did DFO say about releasing the report supporting the agreement? It said: 'because it's considered a confidential business document, government staff are prohibited from releasing it.' Is it just me who notes this is non- and even un-transparent? It's the old 'proprietary' information spin that is used all around the world to avoid being transparent.

So, even the DFO committee could not look at the DFO report. Hmm. And you can only get on this committee if you are invited by DFO to be on it. Hmm. And the neat DFO quote on the non-transparency is: "A key element of our science peer review is [wait for it] transparency. DFO provides all science advice and supporting document from its peer reviews on its website." Hmm.

So, what this means is DFO won't give the 'robust' research to their own committee, but DFO is transparent because the 'consensus' document that comes out of that committee that can't look at the 'robust' science is on its website. Hmm.

Oh, and DFO went on to say that Proboszcz could request the original 'robust' material directly from the companies that signed it. Is that hilarious or what? Too bad we don't have Cohen to 'require' the material and so the companies, Marine Harvest, Cermaq, and Grieg Seafood can decline to send it forward. Hmm.

One more thing, Living Oceans has done a news release on this issue, too:


One more thing: here is the letter from Stan P. from Watershed Watch after the TC article, saying he can now speak freely In other words, DFO is still in a big conflict of interest with fish farms. Please sign the petition. Stan is not pleased. Please note that DFO should be considered the enemy of Wild Pacific salmon in BC. I am reluctant to say that but it is true.

Dear DC,

In 2015, I was asked to be on a government science steering committee examining Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (or IHNV for short) from salmon farms and its risk to wild salmon.

Of course, I had concerns about being on a government-led committee, especially after the Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser Sockeye Salmon concluded that DFO may have a pro-salmon farming bias. Despite my reservations, I accepted the role, and the confidentiality of the position.

Now that the steering committee has published their final report, I’m free to tell you about my experiences.

The report concluded that the risk of IHNV from salmon farms was minimal, based on the industry’s virus management practices. Here’s the kicker. The details of the industry’s management practices that substantiate the conclusions were confidential, so we couldn’t review this information. When I asked to see the documents, a DFO scientist denied me access. This is contradictory to what a scientific peer-review should be.

That’s not all. At the peer-review meeting, on three separate occasions, I witnessed scientists who appeared uncomfortable in sharing their views on salmon farming issues and refrained. What kind of scientific peer-review is DFO running? One where secret industry information is used to support pro-industry conclusions? And where scientists don’t feel safe to speak freely and honestly about salmon farms?

After seeing firsthand how DFO produces its science, I have much skepticism about this report’s benign conclusions about IHNV. We don't know whether IHNV from salmon farms is harming wild fish, in part because the information can’t be reviewed.

This will all come to a head soon. DFO is proceeding with more of these flawed science reviews on other pathogens, despite my criticisms in the peer-review sessions and on CFAX radio and in the Times Colonist.

We need precautionary action from our government, not biased science that protects industry secrets. Wild salmon need to be defended from the diseases and parasites of fish farms.

Our Safe Passage petition calls for the removal of fish farms from wild salmon migration routes. Can you help us get to 10,000 signatures by the end of January by signing and sharing it with friends, family and co-workers?

We’ve heard rumours that DFO may begin consultations for new aquaculture legislation sometime early this year. We need to be ready with loads of engaged citizens, collectively calling for the protection of our wild salmon.

Can you sign and share our petition? Help us reach 10,000 signatures on the Safe Passage and together we’ll make big waves in 2018!

In solidarity,
Stan Proboszcz

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