Sunday, 18 March 2018

DFO Fibs on Farmed Salmon Escapes - BC, Updated Mar 29, 2018

When you say something you know is not true, we call this a lie. In DFO's case, let's just call it a fib. Currently (the original date is 17/10/17, but it was sent in Mar 2018), DFO has forwarded to the Sport Fish Advisory Board a document for review which has in it, about escaped farmed salmon in BC, the following quote:

Under Atlantic Salmon Watch Program, page 6: “There is a very low likelihood of Atlantic salmon establishing in Pacific waters based on numerous failed attempts to introduce Atlantic salmon to this coast in the past. Since 1991, the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program has found no evidence of established Atlantic salmon populations in BC. Nevertheless, it remains important to be vigilant and ensure establishment does not occur. Your reports will help in determining priority rivers for the Atlantic Salmon Watch swims. DFO shares information about all reported sightings on our website. Thank you for your help in monitoring BC waters.

The First Issue is: those failed attempts to establish Atlantics in BC in the past. DFO is not telling you that those attempts are from as much as 113 years ago, in 1905. This is hardly rigourous, recent science. And DFO is abundantly aware of  John Volpe's work in the '90s and early 2000s, with a paper as recently as 2014, that has shown not only that Atlantic Salmon can invade BC rivers, that in fact, they have done so. On Vancouver Island, of rivers with multiple species of salmon checked, 97% of them have farmed Atlantic salmon, of multiple generations. This is shocking, and DFO says it isn't happening.

You will find several posts on this site on Volpe's work in December 2017 and other months. Here is one from December: And here is a paper on BC escapes from Otto Langer, who used to be a scientist at DFO:

Not only does DFO not seem to remember Volpe, or Langer, it actively did its best to inhibit Volpe's research into escape potential and spawning success. The best account of this is in a David Suzuki Foundation document produced for laymen, as in all of us sport fishers: Note this is a DFO link, but DFO can't find it.

While the whole report is on the issue of escapes and DFO trying to prevent research, read the preface at the beginning if you are pressed for time. It says that at the last minute, two days before Volpe was to begin work, DFO refused to give him Atlantic Salmon for his research. It also shut down his spawning channel it had agreed to on the Little Qualicum River. And the report notes that DFO only does research that helps farmed salmon producers. Little wonder why it has no evidence of escapes.

Volpe had no choice but to set up a spawning channel at UVic, and scrounge up some Atlantics from the industry. One of his experiments was with the aggression shown between Atlantics and BC steelhead. He found, as all fishers know, that steelhead are aggressive fish, more so than the Atlantics, and came to the conclusion that the reason those early plants did not take is that steelhead and native fish out competed the alien fish in the rivers.

Volpe's research showing Atlantics in the BC rivers now, is because steelhead are in so few numbers that the aggression between species is far lower. DFO knows this research as it has been out for years. This is not new. It is DFO fibbing.

And, the bottom line is that, today, the absolute lowest number of escaped Atlantic salmon in BC, is 153,000 per crop. The range of 'escape/leakage' is .3% to 5%, and the low end calculation is thus:  85 farms X 600,000 fish/farm X .003 = 153,000.

In other words a shocking number of escapes occur in BC, even using the most conservative escape rate to calculate them. And they are not reported. The Langer document gives links to an ongoing litany of escapes in BC. DFO can't seem to find any of them. Hmm.

Now, let's move to the Second Issue: that DFO has found no evidence of established Atlantics in BC. Well, this one is just straight false. There is that string of papers from Volpe, and from DFO's own Langer, and do a quick Google of escaped farmed salmon in BC, and you will find more than a dozen articles/papers on the subject:

But DFO can't seem to do a 10 second search, nor find its own documents. I did two posts on a suppressed DFO study in NL, by Hamoutene et al: DFO didn't publish it, and it had to be leaked by DFO staffers to outsiders, and that is how I have it. It found the old DFO mantra of: farmed fish can't escape, can't survive, can't feed, can't enter freshwater, can't spawn, progeny can't spawn. But they didn't actually go up rivers to find nothing. Hmm.

The Suzuki doc, and other sources, points out that DFO intentionally hasn't looked in BC, so little wonder it has 'no evidence'. And the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program was beggared with so little financial help, it couldn't do anything, and that DFO has orphaned the program. So, DFO is stringing together a long line of fibbing, meaning saying things it knows that are not true.

One final thing: I drafted 5- to 10-thousand minister's letters when I worked for the BC government, so I love reading someone else do the fine art of fibbing. In the Atlantic Watch paragraph it moves from no Atlantic plants grew to, the next sentence, since 1991 the program has found no Atlantics. What is suggested by this structure is that the first subject leads to the second subject and means the first subject is around 1991. But neither of these things are true. I wrote this kind of crafty stuff every day. It's a hoot, unless the other side is doing it to you... like here.

Here are some other papers on this topic, see 9 and 10:

 1. Escapes:

2. 2002 News -

3. Salmon escapes in Norway, 2013:

4. Langer on Harper gutting the Fisheries Act, and a bio:

5. Norwegians in BC, MacLean's, 2009:

6. Broughton Archiplelago, 2010: "In 2002, the spawning run of pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago off northeast Vancouver Island decreased from 3.6 million to 147,000—four per cent of its population the year before. Biologists pointed to sea lice from salmon farms as the culprit. Juvenile salmon, called smolts, leave the rivers where they are born and are forced to run a gauntlet of salmon farms once they reach the archipelago, where they are exposed to high numbers of sea lice."

7. Escapes, BC, 2017:

8. And why did Norwegian companies, Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood come to Canada in the first place? They came to Canada/Chile/Etc. because of weaker laws "The report Fishy Business: The Economics of Salmon Farming In BC notes that in the late 1980s, Norwegian companies were faced with strict environmental regulations and farm size restrictions in their own country, so they decided to expand in countries where regulations were less strict (i.e. Canada, Chile)."

9. DFO can't seem to find much of anything on escapes, other than they don't exist - because it isn't looking/doing science. And Minister Dominic LeBlanc says everything to do with fish farms is 'evidence based' meaning science. I'd say it is the opposite way around. Fib, fib, fib.

Do note, though, that they did some swimming in 2011/12. They found zero fish - in many of the rivers swum by Volpe where Atlantics were identified: Hmm.

10. Oh and there is a Volpe/Morton paper stating that DFO effectively abandoned the Atlantic sightings program and even before that it was known to under report escapes by 40%. See this post, at the bottom: Take the link and read this paper: The quote is on page 9.


One more thing. If you can believe it, DFO has science on that on the east coast, Ian Bradbury has found farmed fish: can escape, can survive, can eat, can enter rivers, can spawn, can interbreed with Atlantics in 17 of 18 NL rivers he looked at, that is 94% of rivers. That''s pretty close to Volpe in BC, his figure being 97%. But the main issue is DFO arguing the exact opposite, as in completely false on the BC story.

Some links for you:


And DFO has this back-up site:, with a long list of their studies.

On this issue, while DFO is saying the old refrain that in BC farmed fish: can’t escape, can’t survive; can’t eat… and I caught them with their pants down, on your coast it is arguing the exact opposite, that farmed salmon can escape, can survive, can eat… and Ian Bradbury showed them interbreeding in 17 of 18 NL rivers.

Hard to believe, but true, er, false, er...


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