The plot thickens

Here’s an interesting development in the unfolding “ISA in B.C.” saga.

The doctor who actually tested the fish samples and reported the virus, Dr. Fred Kibenge, is listed as a contact on a press release put out today by the Wild Fish Conservancy.

Why is that?

Kibenge referred callers to the CFIA. Yet here he is listed as a contact on a press release which, among other things, calls for Atlantic farms to be fallowed, existing stock to be destroyed and all current hatchery fish to be destroyed.

His presence on the press release aside, the statements made by Wild Fish Conservancy, which has opposed salmon farming for years while working with people looking to make a buck off alternative technologies, are offensive to Canadians and ludicrous.

And do they remind anyone of the BSE (mad cow disease) crisis nearly 10 years ago?

The Canadian beef industry was crippled. They lost millions. Because of one cow found with BSE, Canadian beef exports were shut down for four months, affecting 5,000 jobs and costing the industry $11 million per day.

Canada still has to wait until 2015 before it can apply for “negligible risk” status. Some countries won’t import more Canadian beef until Canada has that status again.

Meanwhile the beef industry has suffered long-term damage and still continues to suffer.

Because of one cow.

One cow.

Here we have two tiny samples testing positive for ISA. This has not been confirmed by CFIA (which DID confirm the one mad cow case) and since the samples were apparently used up, we can’t retest.

If the disease is confirmed to actually be present in B.C. this is a disaster and perhaps some of the Wild Fish Conservancy’s suggestions should be followed.

But it hasn’t.

Researchers went right to the media before they ever received official confirmation.

And based on information no one can reproduce, we are expected to kill millions of fish and shut down the aquaculture industry.

Where is the scientific evidence for this?

Hopefully logic, reason and cooler heads – as well as good science, which always looks to reproduce test results before running to the media – will prevail before politically-motivated knee-jerk reactions needlessly do a lot of economic damage.


7 thoughts on “The plot thickens”

  1. Barbara, where our biggest disagreement is seems to be over whether or not a company can strive to make money and be environmentally responsible. We believe it is possible. You don’t seem to believe it is. We believe that is a caricatured and flawed world view on your part.

    What if YOU are wrong and your misunderstanding of salmon farming puts 6,000 people out of work and removes a billion dollars from the B.C. economy for no good reason other than your feelings?/

    You also seem to misunderstand how water tenures work and log dumps. Many of those tenures are heli-dumps. No upland ownership or operation anywhere nearby. They exist solely for helicopters to dump logs in the water and are every bit as much “privatization” of the waters as you claim aquaculture to be.

    You are also trying to set up every discussion as a false dichotomy and paint us as against you if we are not for you. We are demanding action on the investigation into ISA. We want it to be concluded quickly and decisively. We want to know if it’s true or not. Please don’t try and paint our position in any other way.

    And who is accusing anyone of making up test results? That is your comment, not ours. We have never suggested that, anywhere.

    Finally. shooting the messenger? Really? A cliche? Our blog is about examining science messages around salmon farming. In many cases, what is the message? “Everything about salmon farms is bad.” That’s useless. The point of this blog is to look at the facts and the proofs behind those broad claims. That also includes looking at the people making those claims.

    The truth will stand up to scrutiny.

  2. Are there any fish farmers who believe this state of denial well enough to put up a personal financial guarantee that they are right? Since you are gambling with my future, will you bet yours that the dice is not loaded against you?

    What if you are wrong?

    Those of us who speak negative words are not against you. We are against our ocean spaces being privatized and our rights to our wild fish being vapourized in the name of your job. We would choose to work with you to raise fish in tanks located on land. If this doesn’t work for you, find another job or find another fish that does work. Aquaculture may be important to feed our future world, but not at the expense of our waterway systems and of our coastal environment.

    Time to operate on the precautionary principle.

    1. Barbara, no offence, but you are the one living in denial. You have so completely swallowed the emotional and flawed arguments opponents of aquaculture have fed you. You repeat the mantra of “land-based salmon farming” like it’s some kind of silver bullet solution and misuse the precautionary principle to say no to things you don’t like. You have bought into an emotional ideal which is not supported by science.

      You and your friends are gambling with our futures. You are doing your best to put 6,000 Canadians out of work, and send their families to the food bank. You really think that if land based farms are built, they will be built in B.C.? Think again. They will be built in the USA, close to where the markets are, where there is no shortage of cheap, desperate labour and where they can be powered by natural gas and coal, which drives most of North America’s electricity grid.

      Also, have you considered the amount of fresh water it would take? It’s foolish to use our most precious resources when we don’t have to.

      But they won’t be built. No one is going to put up $30 million to build one farm, let alone $2.5 billion in cash to transition the B.C. industry on to land. With the current technology, the return on investment is about four per cent under ideal conditions. That would quickly turn into a negative and we can tell you there’s a snowball’s chance of this happening with salmon prices expected to stay low for a long time.

      Besides, there is no need. Despite what you have been told, there is NO EVIDENCE that salmon farms harm wild fish. NONE. The biggest sockeye run in B.C. in 100 years came back last year. This year was an average run, but still good. Pink runs all around B.C. have been huge in the past decade.

      Why do they fluctuate? We don’t know. But if we really want to operate on the precautionary principle, let’s use some sense doing it. Science for the past 50 years shows a consistent correlation between high water temperatures and high pre-spawning mortality. This corresponds with lower returns than expected. We know that greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing over the past 100 years and climate change is real.

      Putting salmon farms on land, requiring more fossil fuel electricity and freshwater, would be foolish. That is gambling with our future.

      1. It is clear that we cannot agree. I believe that you have swallowed the company spin and marketing defenses that the industry has fed you.

        What if you are wrong? Are 6,000 jobs worth gambling the destruction of our marine tourism, our commercial fisheries and many of our wild species? You believe it is. I believe it is not.

        If I must confess, I do not believe that land based salmon farming is feasible either, but for different reasons. I do not believe that a carnivorous fish is sustainable in the long term. Diseases of all sorts plague crowded feedlots of all varieties. I do not believe that the product is a good one. I know the difference in taste and texture between wild and farmed salmon.

        Contained fresh water fish can provide the protein, but perhaps not the profits. The (foreign) industry spins on because all that will suffer if they are proven wrong is their bottom line. The history of the suffering that they have left behind in other parts of the world is indeed emotional and the justifications are flawed. It will be you and I together that will suffer the consequences if I am right, because we both live here.

        As a mariner on BC’s coast, the growing privatization of our waterways was my primary reason for beginning my research into the industry’s origins and how they came to own the water. There was no he said/she said science involved in the closed-shop decisions to rent out our protected waterway systems for marine farm obstructions that deny access for fishing, anchoring and navigation. Most salmon farm sites are located at or near water sources. Industry can own the waterways, pollute the water sources and amplify dangerous diseases. The marine laws of Canada say that you can not. We are the landlords of the leases and we have the power of eviction to save our coastal environment.

        There are many unknowns in the science. You are betting on global warming. I suspect causes closer to home. Contrary to what you claim, there is plenty of evidence that farming salmon can harm the environment and the wild fisheries.

        I have read the science from both points of view. It is not a matter of what I have been told. Do not insult me by supposing that I have only read the headlines. I know every tit for tat that has delayed any real action for far too long. I believe that it is you that has swallowed the mantra of company dividends at any cost. Like I said, we do not agree.

        I believe that the farm workers are conscientious and that they do the best they can to mitigate the dangers. The problem is that the dangers are unknown, hence the scientific argument. The precautionary principle means caution when science is unknown, not business as usual.

        I would fully support compensation for those 6,000 jobs to rid our waterways of obstructions and to remove at least the one threat to BC’s wild fish that we actually have any power to change immediately.

        Farming belongs on land, where it’s effects can be contained and the impacts can be measured. Aquaculture science is argued in an invisible vacuum that lacks true knowledge of the ways of nature and the oceans.

        Farming also belongs on land because our waterways are a natural treasure that must remain in the public domain for marine travel and safety. We are your landlords, not DFO.

      2. Barbara, thank you for your respectful comments.

        But we will have to agree to disagree.

        First of all, it’s disrespectful to characterize anything we say as spin. Dismissing perspectives that disagree with you that way is not helpful and we apologize for responding that way to your comments last night.

        But it does seem that you have fallen into the trap of characterizing farmers as interested in profits at any cost. That is a strawman and a caricature and not true. Salmon farming is a long-term commitment. It takes up to three years to grow salmon to market size, longer than chickens, the closest land-based comparison. And no farmer anywhere wants to destroy the land where he or she operates, whether on terra firma or underneath salmon farm pens. Salmon farmers in B.C. have operated in the same places for many years, decades at some sites. Studies have shown that even a site that has been used intensively recovers to its natural state very quickly.

        The point is, companies want to make money but not at the expense of the environment. Farming is a long-term investment; destroying the environment we work in for short-term gain would be crazy.

        We understand your point about the precautionary principle, but 20 years of research have not shown any more than a possible correlation between salmon farms and variations in wild salmon runs. Very few experts in the field, including those with deep concerns about salmon farming, are willing to say that salmon farms are killing wild salmon and must be removed.

        And again we point out there are much stronger correlations between variations in water temperature and variations in wild salmon runs.

        Your concerns as a mariner are certainly valid. But we think you are focusing on one group using one small part of B.C.’s coastline and being unfair about it. Thousands of users hold water leases and tenures on the coastline. Why aren’t you complaining about them? Did you know that you are permitted to boat right up to a salmon farm? There are no restrictions to keep people from passing through farm tenures. You just can’t board the farm site, for biosecurity reasons. That’s it. Contrast that with the 1,000 log dumps on B.C.’s coast. Take a look at this map and the picture of a log boom: Contrast it with this map of salmon farm tenures and the picture of a farm site:

        Which is more of a barrier to mariners? Which is more polluting? The 1,000 log dumps, definitively associated with activities that destroy watersheds and salmon habitat, or the 89 salmon farming sites, which have many questions surrounding their impacts? Please don’t be selective in your criticism of salmon farming. Put it in context.

        Finally, we have read the science from both points of view, too. No one tells us what to think. We came to our opinions on our own, and we respect that you have followed the same path.

        Thanks again for your comments on our blog, we hope to see more from you as we maintain this project.

      3. I must comment on the marine arguments. I am aware that we are “allowed” to navigate up to a fish farm. Even visit one if we tie up at the places you specify.
        The problem is, who would want to?

        If you truly are living and working in the northern remote areas, you know that the sites were not chosen blindfolded with a pin on a map. The argument using statistics that only a small fraction of our coastline is being used is a red herring. These sites are chosen carefully to be near water sources and in locations that can offer some shelter from stormy weather. Exactly the requirements needed for any other type of growth or development of communities. When you add shellfish aquaculture sites and consider the fact that both industries want very much to expand, we are deciding now whether BC will remain beautiful and navigable.

        I separate the farm workers from the COMPANIES. I know that the employees work very hard for not a lot of money. My comments regarding the focus on profits at any cost was directed at the COMPANIES, not the workers. The workers are potentially one of the worst victims of the COMPANIES greed. They represent a big business with a black history in world responsibilities to their workers.

        As for log dumps. Two wrongs do not make a right. I would rather tie up to a log than a fish farm.

        Speaking of log dumps, if I must defend them, and the other water tenures, there IS a crucial difference between them and aquaculture leases. For private docks, logging dumps, etc., there is an associated upland ownership or operation that requires access to the water. I cannot apply for a water tenure if I do not own or lease the land attached to it. The aquaculture tenures are out and out privatization of water spaces with no associated upland interest. This was an illegal shift in Canadian policy, done specifically for aquaculture interests. The public is the upland owner in most cases, and we did not give our permission. I believe that makes these water tenures null and void in a court of law.

        Finally, I believe that this blog is only about shooting the messenger. What about the message? You should be standing shoulder to shoulder (anonymously) with us to demand action on this threat, rather than just deny it’s reality. It’s not about personalities, it’s about the fish, and I would think that you would want to know the truth. No scientist interested in the truth and their own credibility would fake test results. Aren’t you worried?

        What if you are wrong? All that the COMPANIES will lose is money. It IS all that they care about in the boardroom. It is up to those of us who live here to protect everything else.

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