Cohen panel winds down evidence hearings on ironic note

Mark Hume
September 28, 201
Globe and Mail

After sitting for 125 days, listening to the testimony of 173 witnesses and receiving nearly 2,000 exhibits, the Cohen Commission has ended its evidentiary hearings in Vancouver on an ironic note – with the federal government refusing to release a key piece of evidence.

Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council, has claimed cabinet privilege over three documents that Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen of the British Columbia Supreme Court had ordered released.

“I certify to this Commission of Inquiry … that all of the documents referred to … are, or contain, confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada … and I object to the disclosure of these documents,” Mr. Wouters states in his letter.

“If oral evidence were sought to be given on the contents of the documents to the disclosure of which I have in this letter objected, I would object to such evidence on the same grounds,” he wrote.

In a decision earlier this month, Judge Cohen called for the government to provide some of the documents being sought by lawyers for several aboriginal participants in the hearings.

He said a government of Canada submission claiming privilege over the documents – which deal with aboriginal fisheries – could not stand because the government had “not provided a certification” showing that the documents were cabinet confidences.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted September 29th, 2011

Role of fish farms in wild salmon infections poorly studied, Cohen panel told

Mark Hume
September 27, 2011
Globe and Mail

Senior officials from the Department of Fisheries have testified that one of the key questions facing the Cohen Commission – whether fish farms could have spread disease to wild salmon – has not been adequately researched.

Gregory McDade, a lawyer representing two conservation groups and fish farm critic Alexandra Morton, hammered away on the topic during cross-examination this week, as he tried to get a panel of DFO witnesses to acknowledge the government hasn’t adequately researched one of the possible suspects in the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run.

“I’m suggesting … you’ve done no research about the transmission of disease from fish farms to wild fish,” Mr. McDade said.

“I do not agree with that. I will not agree to that,” said Dr. Laura Richards, DFO’s regional director of science.

“Can you name a study?” asked Mr. McDade.

“I don’t have a list of particular study names in front of me,” said Dr. Richards, before adding that one researcher has started to look at the dispersal of viruses in the water column.

Mr. McDade said that means while DFO might be doing such research now, it hasn’t in the past, even though stocks were declining for a decade before a catastrophic collapse in 2009, when only one million of an anticipated 10 million sockeye returned to the Fraser.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted September 27th, 2011

Beach seining for salmon raises question of waste

Mark Hume
September 25, 2011
Globe and Mail

Rick Church has a perspective on the salmon fishery that most people don't have. The owner of Langley Aero Structures Ltd. fixes broken aircraft for a living and for fun likes to fly the Fraser River, where he lands on gravel bars to fish for salmon.

Those bars, so hard packed you can drive a heavy truck on them, emerge at low water and are popular places for both sport and commercial fishermen to gather.

"I just got back from a trip up north today, and having too little time to get any work done, and a fine sunny day, I took the opportunity to fly up the Fraser Valley and do a few gravel bar landings," he wrote in an e-mail. "What I saw horrified me! All along the river in the Chilliwack area were large-scale shoreline net-fishing operations, many with piles of dead fish rotting in the sun on the beaches, hundreds of dead fish drifting in the shallows, in some cases hundreds of yards downstream from the netting location. Since these are shoreline netting operations, I must assume they were native fisheries, since it is an illegal method for all others."

He was right about who was manning the nets, as an aboriginal fishery was then just wrapping up, having caught 500,000 pink salmon over three days.

The native fishermen were beach seining - using a method that has become increasingly popular in the Fraser because it allows for the live release of non-target species. In beach seining, a net is circled out from shore, creating a pen in which salmon are trapped alive.

With more than 17 million pink salmon returning to the Fraser this fall, the beach seine opening for native fishermen was both a sensible and a sustainable fishery.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Read related story:

  • Vancouver Sun; September 27, 2011; "Waste of salmon in B.C. First Nations fishery prompts complaint"


Posted September 26th, 2011

Bureaucrats questioned on principle of Fisheries Act at Cohen Commission

Mark Hume
September 22, 2011
Globe and Mail

One of the guiding principles of the Fisheries Act that requires government to ensure that development projects do not cause a net loss of fish habitat was never meant to achieve “measurable” results, the Cohen Commission has been told.

A panel of top bureaucrats from the Department of Fisheries made the claim on Thursday, in response to questions posed by Brian Wallace, senior commission counsel.

Mr. Wallace said that since 1986 the Fisheries Act has called for “no net loss” of fish habitat. The principle states that development projects can only be approved by DFO if a proponent can provide compensation for any habitat damage.

But British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen heard testimony earlier this year, from DFO field staff, who said they are overwhelmed by the huge amount of development taking place, that many projects simply aren’t reviewed, and that, when habitat is provided in compensation, there is no follow up to see if it works.

Mr. Wallace wanted to know how DFO could achieve its goal of no net loss, if the department is not measuring the impact of developments.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted September 23rd, 2011

New fish farm application sparks debate over site "replacement"

Julia Prinselaar
September 22, 2011
Westerley News

A marine conservation society says a fish farming company is not being transparent with information related to the proposal of a new salmon farm near Plover Point, on the east side of Meares Island.

Should the farm be approved, Mainstream Canada says the new site will be a replacement for its Cormorant farm in its production plans.

The Living Oceans Society (LOS) argues the aquaculture company has been "far from transparent about what constitutes a replacement" because of the type and size difference between the two farms.

"They're virtually quadrupling production," said Catherine Stewart, salmon farming campaigner for LOS.

According to federal the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Cormorant tenure north of Meares Island is currently licenced for a total peak biomass of 850 metric tonnes of fish.

The 55.7 hectare Plover Point site would be licensed to grow approximately 3,000 metric tonnes.

Cormorant does not produce fish to harvest size. Instead, the site is used as a staging area for the company's 13 other full-production sites it operates in the Tofino area.

Read the full story in the Westerley News. 

Posted September 22nd, 2011

Author of salmon science review accused of bias

Mark Hume
September 20, 2011
Globe and Mail

The lead author of a key science review for the Cohen Commission has had some of his conclusions – and even his motives – questioned during cross-examination.

David Marmorek, president of ESSA Technologies Ltd., was accused of being “biased” because his company consults on climate-change adaptation, and his report concludes that climate change is one of the key stressors in the life cycle of sockeye salmon.

Mr. Marmorek, who presented his findings Monday, analyzed the results of 11 scientific papers that British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen had ordered in his inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye.

Mr. Marmorek’s report concluded that climate change, and oceanic conditions along the coastal migration route of young salmon, are the most likely causes of decline. But he said not enough information exists to say what has been killing the salmon. He identified key data gaps and called for research and monitoring activities to find the missing pieces of the puzzle.

But Phil Eidsvik, who is representing the Southern Area E Gillnetters Association and BC Fisheries Survival Coalition, challenged Mr. Marmorek’s motives, saying he had noted on the ESSA Technologies website that the company consults on climate-change adaptation.

Mr. Eidsvik, the only non-lawyer representing participants at the hearings, suggested that Mr. Marmorek was “biased” because his company could bid on contracts for the research his report had recommended.

But Mr. Marmorek said that would be like saying a carpenter who put his foot through a rotten floorboard was just looking for work. He said no link could be made between his company’s climate-change work and his evaluation of the science studies done for Judge Cohen.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Read related stories:

  • Globe and Mail; September 20, 2011; "No ‘primary cause’ for salmon collapse of 2009, analysis of evidence shows"


Posted September 21st, 2011

Farmed salmon escape sea cages [East Coast]

Times & Transcript
September 21, 2011

ST. ANDREWS - The Atlantic Salmon Federation says there is evidence of new breaches of farmed salmon sea cages in the Bay of Fundy with capture of farmed salmon in southwest New Brunswick and Maine rivers. 

Not only has there been a new breach, but it has gone unreported by the aquaculture licensee, contrary to regulations. 

Farmed salmon of the same size range have been showing up in the Magaguadavic River and the Dennys River in Maine which suggest the fish are from the same escape event, said Jonathan Carr, Atlantic Salmon Federation director of research and enforcement. Fish of that size are being grown in Passamaquoddy Bay, he said. None of them match up with fish caught after three breaches of containment late last fall.

It's not known how many farmed salmon have made their way into other rivers of the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine, he added.

The province requires that aquaculture licensees report breaches of 100 salmon or more within 24 hours of confirmation and have a containment management plan in effect within 48 hours.

Read the full story in Times & Transcript

Posted September 21st, 2011

Fishermen protest around Cooke’s cages [East Coast]

Jonathan Riley
Digby County Courier
September 19, 2011

Fishermen from Long and Brier Islands gathered around Cooke’s salmon cages Sunday.

“We’re just out here showing that we’re still thinking about this,” said Sheldon Dixon of Tiverton on his boat the Thumbs Up. “We just want people to know we don’t want these pens here.”

Twenty boats showed up at the cages near 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon and stayed until 3 p.m.

The mood among the boats was as calm and sunny as the weather – fishermen and their families took turns fishing for mackerel and holding up signs that said “Our oceans been ‘Cooked’, ‘Salmon cages poop on me’ and ‘Consultation means listening not telling’.

Dixon has fished St. Mary’s Bay his whole life and is worried the cages will hurt lobster fishing.

“This is the last thing we got. I’ve seen and read about what has happened everywhere they put these cages and it’s scary. We need either good monitoring and regulations or get them out of here.”

Read the full story in The Digby County Courier.

Read related stories: 

  • CBC News or the Winnipeg Free Press; July 11, 2011; "Nova Scotia villages, fish group appealing approval of fish farms"
  • The Working Waterfront; August 17, 2011; "Salmon farms challenged in Nova Scotia" 
  • Nova News Now; July 18, 2011; "Cooke Aquaculture moving ahead with fish farms"
  • CBC News (video): July 14, 2011; "Fish farm fury"
  • Telegraph-Journal; July 13, 2011; "Aquaculture firm faces legal challenge"
  • CBC News; June 17, 2011; "Fishermen protest salmon farm decision"
  • The Queens County Advance; July 5, 2011; "Cooke Aquaculture speaks out on protest"
  • Chronicle Herald; June 23, 2011; "Aquaculture in spotlight"
  • Canadian Press; June 20, 2011; "Lobster fishermen hold smelly protest against nova Scotia fish farms"
  • Telegraph Journal; June 17, 2011; "Coalition protests Bay of Fundy aquaculture venture" 
  • The Canadian Press/Metro; June 17, 2011; "Smelly protest held over fish farms"
  • Fisheries Information Service; June 16, 2011; "Environmentalists, fishers affront approval of salmon farming sites" 
  • Chronicle Herald; June 16, 2011; "Couple appeal approval of fish farms" 
  • Chronicle Herald; June 16, 2011; "Fish farm foes to haul traps to legislature: N.S. has approved two operations at St. Marys Bay" 
  • Digby County Courier; June 16, 2011; "Citizens in Shelburne take aquaculture lease to Supreme Court"
  • CBC News; June 15, 2011; "Appeal filed over salmon farms"
  • Digby County Courier; June 13, 2011; "Lobster fishermen and coastal communities to protest in Halifax"
  • The Fish Site; June 13, 2011; "Upset over approval of aquaculture sites"
  • Chronicle Herald; June 12, 2011; "Opponents fight fish farm approval: N.S. ruling on Digby County facilities ‘shocked’ residents, citizens group says"
  • Digby County Courier; June 11, 2011; "Community ignored in process - Islanders"
  • Digby County Courier; June 11, 2011; "Belliveau knows best - As Simple as That"
  • Digby County Courier; June 10, 2011; Salmon leases will displace 20 fishermen"
  • The Chronicle Herald; June 10, 2011; "Controversial aquaculture sites OK’d: Plan that includes 2 farms near Digby may create 400 jobs" 
  • Fisheries Information Service; June 10, 2011; "Nova Scotia controversially approves plans for two salmon farms " 
  • The Chronicle Herald; June 10, 2011; "Controversial aquaculture sites OK’d: Plan that includes 2 farms near Digby may create 400 jobs"

Posted September 19th, 2011

Project to help salmon past hot spot abandoned, Cohen Commission told

Mark Hume
September 16, 2011
Globe and Mail

A plan to build a $100-million facility that would have released cold water to help salmon in the Nechako River appears to have been abandoned, a federal inquiry has heard.

“Cold-water release is probably a dead duck,” Steve MacDonald, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, told the Cohen Commission on Thursday.

Dr. MacDonald, an aquatic habitat ecologist, was testifying about a much-talked-about project the B.C. government and resource company Rio Tinto planned to jointly fund to compensate for the environmental damage done by a dam.

The province has been promising the project for years as a way to cool off the Nechako River, which Dr. MacDonald described as the “hot spot” that sockeye salmon encounter when migrating up the Fraser River into northern tributaries.

The Kenney Dam was built in the 1950s by Alcan to divert water out of the Nechako River into a reservoir for power generation at an aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C. In 1997, the province and Alcan agreed to provide $50-million each to build a cold-water release facility on the dam. Discussions and studies began, but the project never materialized.

In 2005 then-premier Gordon Campbell announced the cold-water release facility would be built, saying: “It’s been 50 years since the Nechako River was dammed and it’s time for us to take a major step in revitalizing the Fraser River’s most important salmon-spawning tributary and reviving a watershed that is integral to our fisheries heritage.”

But Dr. MacDonald told Commissioner Bruce Cohen it has now been concluded the proposed cold-water release wouldn’t do all that had been hoped to help salmon, and that it might create other problems.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted September 16th, 2011

Fraser River sockeye salmon’s future depends on increasing funding to let DFO do its job

Bob Jackson and Nick Humphreys
September 16, 2011
Vancouver Sun

“It’s disconcerting to many of us why we don’t get more serious about protecting wild salmon on this coast.” — Dr. Craig Orr, Executive Director, WaterShed Watch.

The Fraser River sockeye salmon have returned to their ancient home — and to yet more controversy over their future fate.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have allowed a limited commercial fishery just two years after the still unexplained disappearance of eight million salmon from the Fraser River run — and one year after a stunning record run of 34 million last year.

What is going on with the Fraser River sockeye? We don’t yet know.

The disastrous 2009 run was a significant enough mystery to prompt Prime Minister Stephen Harper to launch a commission of inquiry under B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen.

Much information has come to light at the inquiry, including testimony related to the continued underfunding of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and possible political interference in its work.

With the federal Conservative government about to launch across the board staffing cuts to all departments, DFO’s ability to do its job is even more in question.

Employees at DFO — from scientists to fish hatchery workers — are all extremely frustrated with year after year of reduced resources and staffing to manage one of the most complex and least understood fish in the world.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. 

Posted September 16th, 2011

Concerns raised over use of toxic pesticides to fight sea lice

Mark Hume
September 15, 2011
Globe and Mail

A drug long used by the fish farming industry to control sea lice infestations has become increasingly ineffective on the East Coast and is under scrutiny on the West Coast, according to federal government documents obtained under Access to Information.

Slice, which is administered to farmed salmon in their feed, is the only fully registered sea lice treatment in Canada. But the documents show its declining efficacy has forced the industry to seek alternatives – raising concerns that toxic pesticides are being released into the ocean under emergency authorizations.

“Over the last two years, [New Brunswick] salmon farmers have noted growing levels of sea lice tolerance to the in-feed lice control drug Slice,” Claire Dansereau, deputy minister in Fisheries and Oceans, wrote in a memorandum for the minister in September, 2010. “It appears Slice is no longer effective unless applied in triple doses. Farmers have been seeking access to other treatment products including hydrogen peroxide, Salmosan, AlphaMax and Calicide.”

Ms. Dansereau’s memo, among 800 pages of DFO documents obtained for The Globe and Mail by researcher Ken Rubin, shows there has been conflict within government over the use of at least one of those pesticides. The note states that in May, 2009, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency issued “a one-year emergency authorization” for the use of AlphaMax, but that authorization “was initially opposed by Environment Canada on grounds that it would constitute a ‘deleterious substance’ whose use would violate section 36 of the Fisheries Act.”

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Read related stories:

  • Telegraph-Journal; August 11; "Sea lice numbers low, fish farmers say"
  • Mother Jones; September 27, 2011; "Some sea lice with that farmed salmon"


Posted September 15th, 2011

Make Pacific salmon B.C.'s official fish, groups urge

Sunny Dhillon
September 14, 2011
Globe and Mail

Move over, dogwood flowers and western red cedar trees – British Columbia could soon have another official symbol.

A trio of conservation groups is calling on the province to recognize wild Pacific salmon as B.C.’s official fish. If government approves the move and things proceed swimmingly, Pacific salmon would join spirit bears and Steller’s jays as the province’s animal-kingdom emblems.

“Pacific salmon have long been connected to cultural traditions and well-being of first nations, to lives of those in the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, and to all British Columbians as a true icon,” said Brian Riddell, chief executive officer of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. “We believe the designation of Pacific salmon as B.C.’s provincial fish is a great way to raise awareness of their value to British Columbians.”

Pacific Salmon Foundation, Fraser Basin Council and Living Rivers have delivered a report to Premier Christy Clark that claims there is strong public support for making Pacific salmon a B.C. symbol.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail.

Read related stories:

  • Courier Islander; September 16, 2011; "Province urged to name salmon B.C.'s fish"
  • Vancouver Sun; September 15, 2011; "Salmon recommended as B.C. emblem"
  • CBC News; September 14, 2011; "Conservationists call for salmon as B.C. emblem" 
  • The Province; September 14, 2011; "Support goes swimmingly for iconic salmon as B.C.  symbol"


Read background stories. 


Posted September 14th, 2011

News related to the Cohen hearings on Disease and Aquaculture

CADFor news related to the evidentiary hearings focusing on Disease and Aquaculture for the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River we teamed up with Watershed Watch to provide coverage via the "Cohen Aquaculture Daily".

Click here for a daily summary and a bundling of news stories related to the testimony presented from Auqust 22nd to September 8th. 

Posted September 12th, 2011

Sockeye salmon numbers 'pretty positive'

Jeff Nagel
September 12, 2011
BC Local News

An estimated 4.5 million sockeye salmon are returning to the Fraser River system this summer and the run size has fishery managers cautiously optimistic about the survival of the iconic fish.

Granted, it's a tiny fraction of the record 30 million sockeye that returned last year.

But sockeye run on a four-year cycle, so managers aren't comparing this run against last year – which was the high end of the cycle and was further amplified by mysteriously favourable ocean conditions.

Instead, Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe notes these salmon are the spawn of the sockeye that migrated back in 2007 – a year when less than two million sockeye returned and the fishery was shut down.

That was the start of three years of similarly low returns that led the federal government to appoint the Cohen Commission to investigate the decline.

"The sockeye run is certainly better than forecast," Lapointe said, noting it was expected to be as low as 3.1 million.

Read the full story in the BC Local News

Read related stories in the:

  •  Vancouver Sun; August 24, 2011; Fraser salmon runs strong for second year in a row
  • Globe and Mail; August 16, 2011; "Fraser salmon runs strong for second year in a row"
  • Fisheries Information Service; August 16, 2011; "Sockeye numbers exceed expectations'
  • CBC News; August 13, 2011 "Up to 4 million sockeye expected in run"
  • Vancouver Sun; August 12; "Estimate of Fraser River sockeye return upped to 4 million"
  • Province; August 11; "Fraser River sockeye salmon run opens Thursday"
  • CTV; Augsut 11, 2011; "Fishermen complain about priority for First Nations"
  • Global BC; August 11, 2011; First day of this year's sockeye salmon run ot keep fishermen busy"
  • CTV News; August 10, 2011; "Cold weather could be good nes for salmon lovers" 

Posted September 12th, 2011

Salmon farming company expansion faces opposition [Scotland]

Steven Vass
September 11, 2011
The Herald - Scotland

One of Scotland’s leading salmon farming companies is aiming to spend more than £50 million over the next five years to nearly double its operation – but it will have to overcome strong community opposition in some areas if it is to succeed.

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) is seeking to grow its business from 23,000 tonnes of fish per year to 40,000 tonnes by 2016. To achieve this, it is seeking to build 10 new farms across the west of Scotland. It has already submitted three planning applications to grow sites in the Outer Hebrides and has earmarked other potential applications.

But its main challenge is likely to be to win over communities which are concerned about the effect of intensive fish farming on tourism and the environment. SSC recently walked away from two potential sites in Islay in the face of opposition, though it said the decision was based on technical concerns. It is facing a potential legal challenge to an expansion plan in Harris and is also understood to have fallen foul of the Isle of Eigg’s community trust.

Fiona Cameron, of the fish conservation body the Sea Trout Group in Scotland, said: “To go from 23,000 to 40,000 tonnes in a short space of time seems like running before you can walk. We don’t have enough background knowledge about the ecology to know whether the impact is manageable in such pristine places.”

Stewart McLelland, chief operating officer of SSC, said he was confident all the plans could be achieved in harmony with the environment.

Read the full story in The Herald (requires sign in). 

Posted September 11th, 2011

Top salmon farmers to develop “innovative” sea lice solution [Scotland]

September 9, 2011

SCOTLAND'S two largest salmon farming businesses have joined forces to develop a sustainable method of combating sea lice in a project representing a £2million investment.

Marine Harvest and Scottish Sea Farms are each investing £450,000 over the next three years to develop and grow wrasse – a fish which cleans other fish of parasites and has been shown to help control sea lice in farmed salmon. The project aims to develop the technology to breed and grow commercially viable numbers of wrasse and deploy these in Atlantic salmon farms in Scotland.

The project has also secured £900,000 of funding from the Technology Strategy Board, a UK Government initiative that supports projects involved in the sustainable production of proteins. In partnership with Stirling University, research into breeding the best species of wrasse to rid salmon of sea lice will be carried out at Machrihanish Marine Farm in Argyll.

Read the full story on FishNewsEu

Read related stories:

  • Herald Scotland; September 15, 2011; "Islanders on Eigg to fight plns for fish farm"

Posted September 9th, 2011

Feds rebuff $8.3 million in spending by U.S. green trust

Plan would have given foreign interests undue influence: researcher

Peter O'Neil
September 9, 2011
Vancouver Sun

Vivian Krause was travelling when she learned Thursday that the Harper government is finally acting on her long-standing concerns about what she believes is undue influence in Canadian policymaking by U.S.-funded environmental groups.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in a letter, said it is withdrawing support for a deal that was to allow a U.S. environmentalist-oriented trust to spend $8.3 million on the development of an oceans management plan for the north coast through the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area initiative. The letter was sent to the B.C. government, three West Coast first nations groups and environmental group Tides Canada.

The project was intended to develop an oceans management plan that "balances ecological, economic, social, and cultural interests" based on input from federal and provincial officials, and first nations representatives.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. 

Posted September 9th, 2011

Warming seas could smother seafood

Deora MacKenzie
September 8, 2011

Seafood could be going off a lot of menus as the world warms. More than half of a group of fish crucial for the marine food web might die if, as predicted, global warming reduces the amount of oxygen dissolved in some critical areas of the ocean – including some of our richest fisheries.

The prediction is based on a unique set of records that goes back to 1951. California has regularly surveyed its marine plankton and baby fish to support the sardine fishery. "There is almost no other dataset going back so far that includes every kind of fish," says Tony Koslow of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, who heads the survey. The survey records also include information on water temperature, salinity and the dissolved oxygen content.

Koslow's team studied records of 86 fish species found consistently in the samples and discovered that the abundance of 27 of them correlated strongly with the amount of oxygen 200 to 400 metres down: a 20 per cent drop in oxygen meant a 63 per cent drop in the fish. There have been several episodes of low oxygen during the period in question, mainly in the 1950s and since 1984.

Read the full story in NewScientist. 

Posted September 9th, 2011

Aquaculture expertise cultivated in the heart of corn country

Rob O'Flanagan
September 8, 2011
Guelph Mercury

ALMA — In the heart of Ontario corn country, they’re learning to grow fish.

Not far from the tiny community of Alma, about 35 kilometres north of Guelph and tucked into a picturesque rural valley surrounded by conventional agricultural land, Ontario aquaculture has one of its most sophisticated facilities.

As many as three-quarters of a million fish — mostly rainbow trout, but some Arctic char and tilapia as well — can be raised and analyzed here in an effort to enhance fish-farming practices in the province.

Advanced aquatic research, education, and outreach to the aquaculture industry are the three main roles of the Alma Aquaculture Research Station. With a series of buildings brimming with fish tanks that teem with everything from flitting fries to robust, fully grown fish with voracious appetites, its focus is on research issues affecting food fish in Ontario.

“This is the only scientific facility that can take fish to market size,” said Rich Moccia, University of Guelph associate vice-president research (strategic partnerships), and professor of aquatic science in the department of animal and poultry science.

A lot can be learned about a fish when a researcher is able to observe it through its entire life cycle, he said.

“Nobody else has these kinds of large tanks, and these kinds of numbers to do that kind of research,” Moccia said. “To do research that is directly relevant to the industry you need a facility that can do work on large fish.”

Read the full story in the Guelph Mercury,

Posted September 8th, 2011

Local elder organized rally against fish farms

Jennifer Feinberg
September 6, 2011
Chilliwack Progress

A rally to protect wild salmon on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery last week included a contingent from Chilliwack.

Squaw elder Eddie Gardner said he organized the peaceful gathering of "wild salmon warriors" to help push for a province-wide moratorium on open-net salmon farms in the ocean.

"It is hard to believe the lengths they will go to allow business to continue as usual," he said. "We have to fill the courtroom full of people on Sept. 7 and 8 to ensure the truth gets out."

Gardner is urging anyone concerned about the future of wild salmon to write letters to newspapers and politicians, or attend the Cohen Commission hearings, on West Georgia Street in Vancouver after the long weekend.

Posted September 7th, 2011

It's back to school for fish scientists

Archeology and DNA evidence sheds new light on the disappearance of local herring

Randy Shore
September 3, 2011
Vancouver Sun

New archeological evidence from ancient first nations habitations along the coasts of B.C. and Alaska show thousands of years of uninterrupted herring abundance, a trend that ended with the devastating mismanagement of the fishery in the mid-20th century, researchers say.

That evidence, combined with the collapse of dozens of local spawning grounds, suggests that genetically distinct resident herring stocks may have been fished out of existence.

Genetic analysis of herring bone samples taken from West Coast archeological sites by Simon Fraser University researcher Dongya Yang and Camilla Speller, from the University of Calgary, have so far revealed 43 unique DNA sequences.

Nuclear DNA analysis underway is aimed at identifying distinct local herring populations, some of which are feared to be extinct.

The archeological record shows longevity in herring stocks, said SFU archeologist Dana Lepofsky.

“Herring have been going back to the same places for millennia. That [herring populations] are blinking out now tells us that something is awry,” she said.

First nations delegates, scientists and officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) are gathered this week for Herring School, a three-day knowledge-sharing workshop hosted by Simon Fraser University’s Hakai Network, which is a collaborative research project of the university and first nations on B.C. central coast.

Historical mapping shows contraction in herring populations after heavy fishing, and first nations oral histories confirm both the archeological record and the ruinous impact of the commercial fishery, Lepofsky said.

“What fisheries managers have been telling us is that herring move about and that if they aren’t here today it’s because they haven’t been here that long,” she told The Vancouver Sun. “That just flies in the face of the archeology.”

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. 

Posted September 6th, 2011

Mainstream Canada protests anti-aquaculture claims

Fisheries Information Service
September 2, 2011

Mainstream Canada is taking a stand against the anti-aquaculture campaigners with the Living Oceans Society.

“[They] are simply wrong in their recent criticism of our Plover Point farm site application. They are missing the key point that our new site is a better environmental choice than the old one it will replace,” Mainstream Canada asserted in a statement.

The company acknowledged that, because of its location, its old Cormorant site is not optimal for raising fish to harvest size and is consequently used only for smolt entry. Once those smolts grow big enough, they are transferred to other sites.

Conversely, the company pointed out, it has been decided that the Plover Point site, which is located in Ahousaht First Nation territory, is a suitable replacement site because it exists in deeper water and within a better area with less risk of adverse environmental impacts. The decision appears in the protocol agreement between Ahousaht and Mainstream Canada.

Read the full story on the Fisheries Information Service. 

Posted September 2nd, 2011

Wild salmon deaths linked to sea lice at fish farms

Study contradicts earlier findings based on a review of same data

Judith Lavoie
August 22, 2011
Times Colonist

Wild coho and pink salmon die when young fish migrate through areas where there are sea lice outbreaks on fish farms, a new study concludes.

The paper, whose lead author is Martin Krkosek, a researcher at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the findings directly contradict a previous study that concluded there was no link.

"Our results show that sea lice abundance on farms is negatively associated with productivity of both pink and coho salmon in the Broughton Archipelago," it says.

"When lice numbers on farms are high, the numbers of wild stocks decline," Krkosek said in an interview.

Krkosek used the same data from fish farms as Gary Marty, of the University of California Davis, who conducted the previous study. However, the new study applied different time frames.

"This takes us further," Krkosek said. "We re-analyzed the data from the study last year and also added data and statistics."

Marty, who could not be reached for comment Monday, said previously that his study did not use early population data because of a lack of information about disease.

Krkosek, whose study was partially funded by Watershed Watch and the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, said the research confirms that lice from fish farms are a problem, but also that there is a solution.

Read the full story in the Times Colonist.

Read related stories: 

  • The Telegram; August 29, 2011; "Local groups concerned about sea lice infection in Pacific Salmon"
  • Huffington Post; August 24, 201; "Sea lice from farmed salmon infect wild salmon after all, says new study"
  • Fisheries Information Service; August 24, 2011; "Link between sea lice and deaths in wild salmon confirmed"
  • CBC News; August 22, 2011; "Sea lice linked to wild salmon mortality"
  • CFJC News: August 23, 2011; "Researchers say lice killing wild salmon"
  • Time; August 23, 2011; "Study Says Sea Lice From Farmed Salmon Do Hurt Wild Fish – But the Debate’s Not Over"
  • CBC – The Fisheries Broadcast; August 23, 2011; "Lice from farmed salmon killing wild fish: study"

Read paper: Krkošek, M., B.M. Connors, A. Morton, M.A. Lewis, L.M. Dill, and R. Hillborn. 2011.Effects of parasites from salmon farms on productivity of wild salmon. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 108(34) 

Posted August 24th, 2011

Fish farmers post tales on new website

Aquaculture group aims to give positive spin to operations

Brian Medel
August 24, 2011
Chronicle Herald

Nova Scotia fish farmers have put their heads together to come up with a novel way of enhancing public confidence in their industry. is a website that features stories about people who operate fish farms. The Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia is the driving force behind the Internet campaign.

"We are just farmers," said Brian Blanchard, a seasoned aquaculturist and manager of a halibut farm in Shelburne County. focuses on the fish farmer next door — provided you live near salt water.

"The feedback we’re getting is just unbelievably positive," Blanchard said

Billboards and bus ads are also up in Halifax. They come with a scan bar.

"You can basically point your smartphone at the billboard and it will take you to the web page," Blanchard said.

Read the full story in the Chronicle Herald.

Posted August 24th, 2011

B.C. farmed seafood industry likely to struggle

Some are thriving, but fear success could be fleeting

Brian Morton
August 20, 2011
Times Colonist

Keith Reid may have found the way to flourish in B.C.'s shellfish industry: Think small.

The owner of Stellar Bay Shellfish Ltd. near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island ships 100,000 smaller kusshi oysters a week throughout North America, with many showing up in the finest restaurants and oyster bars.

"It's a boutique oyster [and] we ship to San Francisco, New York and for us it's good," Reid said. "We've identified a niche in the marketplace for small, high-quality oysters. And we get a premium [price] for our oyster. Over the next three years, we hope to increase [production] by 50 per cent."

Despite Reid's success - for the immediate future at least - strong growth may not be in the cards for B.C.'s farmed seafood industry as a whole.

High production and transportation costs, a lengthy regulatory process and the return of Chilean farmed salmon to the U.S. market are just some factors that add up to reduced prospects.

As well, B.C.'s salmon farmers are fighting a campaign by critics to link the industry with the collapse of wild salmon stocks.

Reid, who also sells clams, knows things aren't booming in B.C.'s shellfish industry, which is predicted to see slower growth in the near term.

"The problem with oysters is the cost of shipping," added Reid, who also sells in Japan, South Africa and Dubai. "Farmers selling oysters today don't get a reasonable share of the selling price."

Read the full story in the Times Colonist.

Posted August 20th, 2011

Salmon inquiry focuses on fish farms and disease

August 22, 2011
CBC News

APossible links between fish farming, disease and the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye salmon run will be the focus at the Cohen Commission hearings this week in Vancouver.

On Wednesday, Fisheries and Oceans scientist Kristi Miller is slated to testify about her studies suggesting some sort of virus may be killing salmon before they reach the spawning grounds.

Miller's the long-awaited testimony is expected to be controversial, following allegations the federal government attempted to prevent her from discussing her work with the media.

The inquiry will also hear about fish farms and their impact on wild salmon, including testimony from outspoken fish farm opponent Alexandra Morton of the Raincoast Research Society.

"As these hearings proceed it will be a detective effort. The best fit answer is going to have to explain an 18-year decline of only the sockeye that migrate along eastern Vancouver Island, while other neighbouring runs were unaffected, even increasing," said Morton in a statement issued on Friday.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association also says its members are ready to testify starting on August 31.

Read the full story on CBC News.

Read related stories in:

  • Global on CTV or the Huffington Post; August 20 and 22nd; "Salmon inquiry to wade into contentious issues of fish farms and disease  "
  • Vancouver Sun; August 16, 2011; "Sockeye hearings shift focus to aquaculture"

Posted August 20th, 2011

Funding uncertain for lab of muzzled salmon biologist

Margaret Munro
August 20, 2011
Edmonton Journal

A fisheries biologist has not only been muzzled by the federal government, but her lab could be in trouble as well, Postmedia News has learned.

Kristi Miller, a geneticist who was silenced by the federal government's Privy Council Office in January, will finally be permitted to speak this week at the inquiry looking into the decline of B.C.'s famed Fraser River salmon.

She is due to testify at the Cohen Commission Wednesday about her team's ominous discovery that viral pathogens may be weakening the fish.

Federal documents indicate she might also have plenty to say about the health of her lab at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

The lab's current "funding model," which has been paying many technical staff, has been found to be "noncompliant with DFO policy," Ruth Withler, a senior scientist in the lab, wrote in a Jan. 13 message to staff in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The document, released under access to information laws, says the decision to change the funding model could be "jeopardizing future involvement of DFO science staff" in the type of "innovative research" done in Miller's lab.

Read the full story in the Edmonton Journal or the Vancouver Sun. 

Read background stories. 

Posted August 20th, 2011

Cohen inquiry points to flawed response to oil spills

Mark Hume
August 19, 2011
Globe and Mail

A serious flaw in the government’s response plans for oil and chemical spills on the West Coast has been highlighted at a federal inquiry investigating the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.

The Cohen Commission heard this week that when a spill occurs off British Columbia, the Coast Guard leads the response, with support from Environment Canada. But neither agency has the capacity to assess the impact of contaminants on fish or marine mammals, Peter Ross, a research scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Institute of Ocean Sciences, testified. 

And Dr. Ross, a toxicologist, said DFO is often sidelined during spill responses, with its experts either not involved, or ignored. 

One example he cited involved a 2007 accident in which a fuel barge sank in Robson Bight, a killer-whale sanctuary on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

In conference calls, Dr. Ross raised concerns about fuel contaminating whales, which were seen surfacing in the area, and filtering into clam beds used by local Indian bands. But his call for samplings were ignored.

“I had suggested . . . that we collect shellfish samples and, potentially, water samples, to conduct hydrocarbon measurements,” Dr. Ross testified.

But he said enforcement officials on site, “were instructed not to,” because the Coast Guard didn’t think the barge owner, LeRoy Trucking, had the funds to pay for such a monitoring effort.

When an oil spill occurs, the party responsible is liable for cleanup costs, but the government can get stuck with the bill if the offender is unable to pay.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted August 19th, 2011

B.C. fish deemed uncontaminated by Japanese nuclear crisis

Times Colonist
September 20, 2011

Government tests meant to see if fish from British Columbia are showing high levels of radioactivity following this year's devastating earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan have come up negative, says the agency responsible for Canadian food safety.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said domestic fish from B.C. were tested as part of the federal government's response to the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.

The agency said the fish showed no signs of dangerous radioactivity.

Read the full story in the Times Colonist

Read related stories: 

  • CBC News; August 19, 2011; "West Coast fish to be tested for Fukushima radiation"
  • BC Local News; August 19, 2011; "Salmon will be tested for Japanese radiation"


Posted August 19th, 2011

Top commercial fishery in years wasn't expected

August 18, 2011
Kitimat Sentinel

The best chum salmon run in years has come to local waters, unexpectedly, and commercial fishermen who didn’t expect it netted the waters for four days last week, with more days potentially to be tacked on after last Friday.

“Things picked up quite good reminiscent of the good days of chum returns,” said local Fisheries and Oceans manager Dan Wagner.

“This year a surplus wasn’t forecasted.”

But it happened. The ministry announced a one-day commercial chum fishery from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday August 8, and after good returns were seen extended it another day, and then two more.

In total, four 16-hour commercial fishing days came about by last Friday, and industry veterans said it’s been a long time since they’ve seen anything like it.

“This year is similar to 2006/2005,” said Wagner. “2007 to 2010 have been unusually low returns for chum.”

“Last year ... it was pretty poor. We forcasted a surplus and there wasn’t,” he said.

A fish surplus means the local hatchery has caught what it needs to meet it’s spawning quota and river and ocean counts are good, said Wagner.

Read the full story in the Kitimat Sentinel. 

Posted August 19th, 2011

Increase of aquaculture fines and suspensions planned (Chile)

Fisheries Information Service
August 18, 2011

Those entrepreneurs and producers infringing health regulations are subject to severe sanctions. The national government revealed plans to raise from three to five years the period of running suspension of the farms that relapse into actions contrary to the legislation.

This measure will be taken if a second infringement is committed within four years from the occurrence of the first sanction, Diario Financiero reported.

The Executive plans to send to Congress a bill amending the "sanitary and land management regulations for aquaculture concessions" and that considers further punishment for companies that do not respect the law. So was stated by the head of the Undersecretariat of Fisheries (Subpesca), Pablo Galilea, and the Economy Minister Pablo Longueira.

Fines could increase according to the value of the harvest of the fish raised in farms that do not comply with the provisions of the law.

Currently, the maximum fine amounts to CLP 115 million (USD 243,500).

Read the full story on the Fisheries Information Service. 

Posted August 18th, 2011

Biologist vows to continue her fight

Open-net fish farm critic to testify at Cohen Inquiry

August 17, 2011
Vancouver Sun

Biologist Alexandra Morton says she'll continue her fight against opennet fish farms to the end, even though she's "exhausted" from her almost 20-year-old campaign.

Morton is scheduled to testify Sept. 7-8 in Vancouver at the Cohen Commission inquiry into the cause of the disastrous decline of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye salmon.

In May, she said she felt she had "failed" in her efforts to change government policies and industry regulations to make the controversial fish farms more environmentally friendly, and would "reassess" her campaign after she gave her testimony at the Cohen inquiry.

But she said from her home in B.C.'s Broughton Archipelago Monday that she will "continue indefinitely" to fight for the cause, despite the lack of progress in convincing Ottawa and the industry to move away from open-net pens to closed containment systems so wild salmon won't be affected.

Farming supporters maintain the industry has significantly changed since the farms began in earnest in B.C. in the 1980s. 

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. 

Read related stories in the:

  • Leader-Post; August 17, 2011; "Biologist Alexandra Morton to continue fight against B.C.'s open-net fish farms
  • Nanaimo Daily News; August 16, 2011; "Biologist Morton decides to fight on"


Posted August 17th, 2011

Rushed fishermen throwing dead chum salmon overboard, groups charge

Mark Hume
August 17, 2011
Globe and Mail

Thousands of chum salmon that are supposed to be released alive as a conservation measure are being thrown overboard dead or dying in a North Coast commercial fishery, two fisheries conservation organizations have charged.

“This is possibly the most cavalier and unsustainable fishery currently operating on Canada’s West Coast,” said Aaron Hill of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

“It’s appalling,” said Greg Taylor of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.

A Department of Fisheries and Oceans official, however, said he thinks the fishery is largely in compliance with regulations, although there have been some charges laid against fishermen for improperly handling chum salmon.

Seine boats fishing for pink salmon, in Area 6, southeast of Kitimat, are required to release chum alive, because the species has been in decline.

But the fishery, in a remote area near the head of Douglas Channel, isn’t closely monitored and large numbers of chum aren’t thrown back until after they have stopped thrashing about on deck, the conservationists say.

Mr. Taylor estimated 73,000 chum have been released by fishermen so far this season – and he thought few of those fish could have survived.

“It is just insane – and they do it as a conservation measure,” said Mr. Taylor. “I don’t blame the fishermen for this. I think DFO just doesn’t have a handle on it.”

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted August 17th, 2011

B.C.’s farmed seafood industry predicts ‘stable’ growth

The cost of doing business is going up, while prices haven't risen in accordance, association director says

Brian Morton
August 15, 2011
Vancouver Sun

Keith Reid may have found the way to flourish in B.C.'s shellfish industry: Think small.

The owner of Stellar Bay Shellfish Ltd. near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island ships 100,000 smaller kusshi oysters a week throughout North America, with many showing up in the finest restaurants and oyster bars.

"It's a boutique oyster [and] we ship to San Francisco, New York and for us it's good," Reid said in an interview. "We've identified a niche in the marketplace for small, high-quality oysters. And we get a premium [price] for our oyster. Over the next three years, we hope to increase [production] by 50 per cent."

Despite Reid's success, for the immediate future at least, strong growth may not be in the cards for B.C.'s farmed seafood industry as a whole.

High production and transportation costs, a lengthy regulatory process, and the return of Chilean farmed salmon to the U.S. market are just some factors that add up to reduced prospects.

As well, B.C.'s salmon farmers are fighting a campaign by critics to link the industry with the collapse of wild salmon stocks. Reid, who also sells clams, knows things aren't booming in B.C.'s shellfish industry, which is predicted to see slower growth in the near term.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. 

Posted August 15th, 2011

Sto:lo sockeye catch can't be sold

Jeff Nagel
August 15, 2011
BC Local News

Sto:lo Nation member bands can't legally sell the sockeye salmon they catch in the lower Fraser River this summer.

The bands stretching from Pitt Meadows to Yale could have had an authorized commercial fishery – as happened in past years – but not enough of them were willing to sign a sales agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Usually, when there's enough inbound sockeye to open a regular commercial fishery, sales agreements letting aboriginal bands also profit from the fishery are almost automatic.

Without such a deal, the Sto:lo are supposed to fish only for food, social and ceremonial purposes and not sell any of their catch.

But the bands won't have to submit to the more rigorous monitoring and enforcement by DFO that come with authorized sales.

Read the full story on BC Local News.

Posted August 15th, 2011

The return of salmon to Salmon River

Mark Hume
August 14, 2011
Globe and Mail

The dream of most fisheries conservationists is to restore damaged watersheds to their natural productivity. But on the Salmon, the potential is bigger than that.

And nobody is pushing harder for change than Mike Gage, a tireless champion of salmon conservation. He is a representative of the Salmon River Fish and Game Association and chair of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation.

“We could really do something up there,” says Mr. Gage of the Salmon, which rises as snow melts in Strathcona Park, and develops into one of the Island’s larger rivers by the time it reaches Johnstone Strait, near the small town of Sayward.

“According to Fisheries and Oceans … we could increase coho production from 12,000 to 20,000 and could increase steelhead numbers by 30 per cent,” he says.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail. 

Posted August 14th, 2011

Shoppers track salmon from boat to plate

August 6, 2011
Times Colonist

If you've ever wondered where the salmon on your plate came from - other than the promise from your local fishmonger that it's from B.C. waters - Thrifty Foods may have the answer.

The Victoria-based grocery chain in partnership with Ecotrust Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation and economic development initiatives, has signed on to the website so their customers can trace that piece of wild red spring salmon to the waters the fish called home, the boat that landed it and the crew that hauled it in.

Read the full story in the Times Colonist.

Read related story:

Posted August 11th, 2011

The Bear Truth: Grizzlies' Snagged Hair Samples Reveal Dependence on Salmon

Poor salmon runs along British Columbia's central coast rainforest since 2003 have spurred scientists to gauge the fish's nutritional impact on grizzly bears

Anne Casselman
August 8, 2011
Scientific American

HEILTSUK TRADITIONAL TERRITORY, British Columbia—"Remember, if she charges, don't run," Doug Brown, researcher and field station manager for Raincoast Conservation Foundation and member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, who tells me as we climb out of the boat at the head of one of the countless inlets found in the of the Heiltsuk Traditional Territory along British Columbia's central coast. It's June and the early morning summer sun rapidly scales over the steep slopes flanking the inlet. Several hundred meters away a grizzly mother is grazing along the edge of the estuary with her two and a half-year old cubs. "Cub," however, is a misnomer in this instance. These are three-year-olds, large beasts in their own right. Through my binoculars I see the mother lift her broad head to sniff the wind. The muscles powering her lumbering 135-kilogram-plus body ripples still. "So how far away does the bear need to be for the bear spray to work?" I ask Doug. "Ten feet," he replies. I picture just how large this grizzly would be that close—and how fast she would close that distance. "Wow," I mutter. Doug replies: "Yeah, that's why I carry two canisters."

Read the full story in Scientific American. 

Posted August 8th, 2011

Pink salmon goes green, earns sustainable management certification

Evan Duggan
August 6, 2011
Vancouver Sun

Pink salmon from B.C. has become “green” after getting certified for sustainable management.

Pink salmon from B.C. has become “green” after getting certified for sustainable management. Photograph by: Ric Ernst, Vancouver Sun

Pink salmon from B.C. has become “green” after getting certified for sustainable management.

The fishery is now the sixth in the province to receive the certification from the Marine Stewardship Council—an independent, global, non-profit organization based in London, England, which uses United Nations guidelines for its certifications.

The certification covers all B.C. pink salmon commercial fisheries including the Fraser River, interior fisheries, and the coastal waters of the province, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a news release.

Pink salmon are caught using trolling, gillnets, and seines—vertical fishing nets with weights at the bottom and floats on the top.

According to the release, B.C. pink salmon was sent to 26 countries in 2010, bringing in more than $22 million in export value.

“B.C. seafood is a perfect choice to meet the growing local and international demand for responsibly harvested and safely produced food, said Don McRae, B.C.’s agriculture minister, in the release. “Environmentally conscious shoppers and diners around the world can now enjoy the flavour and versatility of B.C. pink salmon while knowing that it comes from a sustainable fishery.

Most of B.C.’s 2010 pink salmon exports went to the U.K., Belgium and New Zealand.

Source: Vancouver Sun. 

Posted August 6th, 2011

Norwegians Concede a Role in Chilean Salmon Virus

Alexei Barrionuevo
July 27, 2011
The New York Times

San PAULO, Brazil — A virus that has killed millions of salmon in Chile and ravaged the fish farming industry there was probably brought over from Norway, a major salmon producer has acknowledged.

Cermaq, a state-controlled Norwegian aquaculture company that has become one of the principal exporters of salmon from Chile, has endorsed a scientific study concluding that salmon eggs shipped from Norway to Chile are the “likely reason” for the outbreak of the virus in 2007, according to Lise Bergan, a company spokeswoman.

But, she argued, “the report didn’t pinpoint any company” as the culprit.

The virus, infectious salmon anaemia, or I.S.A., was first reported at a Chilean salmon farm owned by Marine Harvest, another Norwegian company. It quickly spread through southern Chile, racking a fishing business that had become one of the country’s biggest exporters during the past 15 years. The Chilean industry, whose major clients include the United States and Brazil, suffered more than $2 billion in losses, saw its production of Atlantic salmon fall by half and had to lay off 26,000 workers.

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Read related articles:

Posted July 27th, 2011

Feds silence scientist over West Coast salmon study

Margaret Munro
July 26, 2011
Vancouver Sun

Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada's West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister's Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

Science, one of the world's top research journals, published Miller's findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified "over 7,400" journalists worldwide about Miller's "Suffering Salmon" study.

Science told Miller to "please feel free to speak with journalists." It advised reporters to contact Diane Lake, a media officer with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, "to set up interviews with Dr. Miller."

Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island.

The documents show major media outlets were soon lining up to speak with Miller, but the Privy Council Office said no to the interviews.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun.

Read background stories on Dr. Miller's research.


Read related stories:

Posted July 26th, 2011

Male GM salmon can breed with wild species, researchers fin

Montreal Gazette
July 14, 2011

Concerns of cross-contamination between genetically modified and non-GM foods are no longer reserved for crop farmers. Canadian researchers have found that transgenic Atlantic salmon can pass their genes on to wild salmon if they escape into the wild.

"It is possible for the genetic modification to enter wild populations through natural sexual reproduction," Darek Moreau, a researcher in evolutionary ecology at Memorial University in St. John's told Postmedia News.

Moreau and his colleagues monitored the breeding behaviour of wild and transgenic male Atlantic salmon in a lab setting over two years. They found that wild male salmon were more successful at breeding, but the genetically modified males still managed to spawn naturally even if they tended to show less interest in female salmon and bred less frequently.

The resulting ecological and genetic effects are still uncertain, he said, but the findings underscore the importance of keeping transgenic salmon — which is currently not farmed for human consumption — from escaping into the wild to ensure they do not breed with wild salmon that are well adapted to their natural environment

Read the full story in the Montreal Gazette. 

Read related stories:

  • KCAW-FM; July 19, 2011; "Study: Genetically modified salmon can breed with wild fish"
  • Fisheries Information Service; July 18, 2011; "Transgenic salmon could infect wild populations: study"

Posted July 18th, 2011

Frankenfish: Is GM Salmon a Vital Part of Our Fut

Bryan Walsh
July 12, 2011
TIME Magazine

As I write in this week's TIME cover story, aquaculture — fish farming — is an increasingly essential part of our global food system. Already about half of our seafood starts on an aquatic farm, and as seafood demand continues to rise and the wild ocean catch plateaus, you can be certain that the emphasis on aquaculture will continue to grow.

For much of the world, that's a good thing. Seafood tends to be healthier than land-raised meat, and fish farming on the whole is a more efficient way to produce protein than raising traditional farm animals. (Efficiency in this case means turning inputs — fish feed — into outputs, fillets on your table.) If aquaculture can deliver inexpensive protein to the masses, it could go a long way toward meeting the increasing demand for food globally, expected to double by midcentury. "We need to shift from collecting and harvesting fish in the wild to a culture bred around seafood production," says Yonathan Zohar, the director of the Center of Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland. "[Fish farming] needs to be sustainable and it needs to be economically feasible."

But there's a major problem with the expansion of aquaculture as it's practiced today: fish feed. The most popular commercial species — think salmon — tend to be carnivores high on the food chain, so they need to be fed a lot of smaller fish in order to grow. If we end up taking more fish mass out of the ocean for feed than we produce via farming, well, that's not very sustainable. 

Read the full story in TIME.  


Posted July 12th, 2011

University study uncovers false salmon labeling

Donna Gordon Blanksinship
July 8, 2011

Wild-caught Pacific salmon is more myth than reality on some Puget Sound restaurant menus, a study at the University of Washington Tacoma has found.

About 38 percent of samples from Tacoma-area restaurants showed a menu was promoting farm-raised Atlantic salmon as wild-caught Pacific salmon, or calling a coho a king. Grocery stores and fish markets got better scores, with only about 7 percent of store samples mislabeled.

"I'm shocked at the number of substitutions that we encountered," said Erica Cline, an assistant professor in the university's environmental program who was one of two biology instructors leading the study.

Cline wanted to give her students some hands-on experience using DNA to distinguish species and thought this project would make the learning more fun. She decided to look at salmon after another study conducted in New York City found many restaurants were serving farm-raised Atlantic salmon and saying it was the wild Pacific fish.

Read the full story on Forbes.

Read related stories:

  • Vancouver Sun; January 3, 2011; "Importer employes DNA tessting to battle 'rampant' seafood mislabelling"
  • Fisheries Information Service; July 12, 2011; "38 pc of salmon mislabelled:study"
  • News Tribune; July 7, 2011; "University of Washington Tacoma study: Salmon often mislabeled"


Posted July 8th, 2011

Greenpeace applauds Canada’s grocers for improved seafood practices

Jessica Leeder
July 7, 2011
Globe and Mail

They’re far from getting top marks, but all eight of Canada’s supermarket chains have been applauded by Greenpeace for implementing policies on seafood sustainability.

Still, just three of Canada’s eight chains – the national giant Loblaw, Overwaitea Food Group and Safeway – got passing grades from the global environmental advocacy group in its annual report card on seafood sustainability to be released on Thursday. Chains that failed were Sobeys, Wal-Mart, Metro, Federated Co-operatives and the retail wholesaler Costco.

“Canada’s supermarket chains are beginning to walk the talk and turning sustainability commitments to action on supermarkets’ shelves,” said Sarah King, Greenpeace’s oceans campaign co-ordinator. “We are seeing these retailers tighten up their supply chains, but more work is required from them before diminishing ocean life is afforded the protection it needs.”

Greenpeace, which also ranks U.S. stores, bases the scoring on whether supermarkets have policies to increase the sustainability of the seafood products they sell, implementation of the policy (including removing or substituting species that are on the group’s Redlist), their ability to trace seafood from ship to store and how they communicate their efforts to customers. The red list includes species that Greenpeace believes have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail.

Posted July 7th, 2011

Western Canada's biggest grocer commits to sustainable seafood

Randy Shore
July 6, 2011
Vancouver Sun  

Canada Safeway, Western Canada's largest grocery chain, Monday announced its commitment to source its fresh and frozen seafood from sustainable and traceable sources by 2015.

Safeway's 224 stores have already removed several redlisted species from seafood counters, including Atlantic halibut, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass and shark and has discontinued its store-label canned yellowfin tuna.

"The next step for us is to survey our suppliers to find out all the products they are supplying us, the details of the species and the method of catch," said Canada Safeway director of corporate social responsibility, Renee Hopfner. "Our suppliers know this is important to us, so they are in the process of pulling together the information."

Safeway stores carry up to 80 seafood items from 20 to 30 different vendors.

The grocery chain's sustainable seafood policy and implementation program was designed in partnership with SeaChoice, a program founded by five Canadian environmental organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation and the Living Oceans Society.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun. 

Posted July 7th, 2011

Commercial salmon deal reached

Judith Lavoie
July 6, 2011
Times Colonist

After years of conflict over sockeye salmon sales by First Nations in the Alberni Valley, commercial sales will now be legal under an agreement signed this week by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations.

The deal, based on First Nations receiving 33 per cent of the commercial sockeye catch in Alberni Inlet and the Somass River, is a victory, said Tseshaht fisheries manager Andy Olson.

"We haven't had a commercial sockeye agreement for 10 years," Olson said.

"We had one before that, but the problem has been the allocation formula."

The pilot sales agreement, started in the 1990s, was supposed to be renegotiated every year.

But for the past decade, the DFO has demanded a sliding scale, with the aboriginal commercial fishery receiving a decreasing percentage during good runs and the bulk going to the non-aboriginal commercial fishery.

Read the full story in the Times Colonist. 

Posted July 6th, 2011

Cohen inquiry panel debates aboriginal fishing practices

Sunny Dhillon
July 5, 2011
Globe and Mail

Aboriginal fisheries were under the Cohen Commission’s microscope on Tuesday, with parties at the public inquiry debating just how much fish first nations need.

The commission, which is investigating the decline of sockeye salmon in B.C.’s Fraser River, is in its last week of evidentiary hearings before its summer break. Four witnesses took the stand for the day of testimony, including Ernie Crey, fisheries adviser for the Sto:lo Tribal Council. During the morning session, Mr. Crey was cross-examined by Phil Eidsvik of the B.C. Fisheries Survival Coalition, which represents the interests of commercial fishermen. Mr. Eidsvik asked multiple times whether the illegal catching and selling of fish was a concern for the Agassiz-based Sto:lo council.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail.

Read related stories:

  •  Globe and Mail; May 18, 2011; Sockeye haul linked aboriginal fishery to black market, DFO believes
  • Globe and Mail; June 14, 2011; "B.C. Conservative Leader could be in court while on the hustings"
  • Maple Ridge News; May 26, 2011; "Katzie follows rules, fish only for food"
  • Hope Standard; May 25, 2011; "Illegal trade in salmon rampant, says DFO"
  • The Canadian Press; May 23, 2011; "Organized crime part of fish caught for aboriginals but sold illegally:inquiry"
  • Globe and Mail; May 22, 2011; "No one followed the B.C. black-market salmon"
  • Globe and Mail; May 19, 2011; "Excluded transcript frustrates lawyers at Cohen inquiry"
  • BC Local News; May 18, 2011; "Illegal trade in native-caught salmon rampant: DFO"

Posted July 5th, 2011