A missed opportunity

We really don’t want to pick on Alexandra Morton but she really makes it easy. Again, we are not attacking her personally. We are sure she is a very nice person. But once again, the things she says about salmon farming and the ‘science’ she does to back it up is just plain junk.

Now she has announced that she has found ISA in farmed Atlantic salmon purchased from supermarkets in the Lower Mainland. There are some peculiar aspects to this story which should make anyone question this conclusion.

First of all, the salmon were purchased from three T and T supermarkets. Why choose this chain, which imports seafood from all over the world for the Chinese-Canadian market? Do we know where these fish are really from? What sort of potential was there for cross-contamination? Why didn’t she get samples from several different stores? Why didn’t she get samples from stores that are definitely known to sell farmed salmon grown in BC?

There was a real missed opportunity here to put some scientific controls on this experiment. Getting precise information about the source of the salmon would have been crucial data needed to make this experiment meaningful. Instead Ms. Morton didn’t think it necessary to get a clear record of this information, instead choosing to assert that “from speaking with the people behind the seafood counter we believe these fish were reared in BC marine feedlots.”

That’s not good enough. Ms. Morton, if you want to make serious claims about ISA and salmon in BC you had better have some good evidence to back it up. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

There isn’t even any bad evidence here, just Ms. Morton’s confident assertion that what she believes is true.

This is a pattern. She seems so determined to prove she is right that she is blinded to alternative explanations for the data she observes.

This is bad science plain and simple, and a real missed opportunity to add some useful data to help everyone better understand farmed and wild salmon in BC.

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8 thoughts on “A missed opportunity”

  1. The BC Farmers Association does not have the ethics to truly be open and transparent when it comes to testing farmed salmon as was evidence with the Cohen Commission. This is what is really “bad.” While BC Farmers Association plays hide and seek and manipulates the media with slick PR, there is already evidence their feedlots do cause harm to the marine habitat that is detrimental to juvenile salmon that pass by and through their open net feedlots. In the meantime, citizens who care about the marine environment and survival of wild salmon have to continue to the work that is supposed to be done by the province and DFO. I applaud the work that Dr. Alexandra Morton is doing.

    1. Eddie, the thousands of documents presented to the commission by by salmon farmers contradict your claims. They were more open and transparent than any other group at the commission. We didn’t see a whole lot of information presented about commercial fisheries bycatch of non-target salmon species, or about the problem of native food fish being sold on the black market.

      Also, how would testing by people who have openly stated that it is their mission to shut down salmon farms in BC be anything but a kangaroo court?

    2. The Cohen Commission wanted the raw data from the BCFA and received it. Check the rulings from Judge Cohen for evidence of this. The fact is that nothing would have satisfied fish farm opponents. It is either too little information being provided…..or when it is provided it is all biased. The people going out to “continue the work that is supposed to be done by the province and DFO” have been duped by Ms. Morton into thinking that they are doing the work properly and is going to make a difference. The fact is that we had a bunch of uninformed people heading out sampling fish who had no idea what they were doing. They were also following a “manual on fish sampling” produced by someone within Morton’s ranks that didn’t know what they were doing either. The result was a bunch of samples that were poorly degraded. I admit this gets good press coverage but it does little to further good science.

      Eddie, you should be aware that DFO’s Environmental Watch Group conducts annual sampling of live spawning salmon or fresh salmon carcasses (not the boots sampled by Morton’s clan) throughout the watershed. This sampling is done following proper methodology and protocols so that samples are preserved properly and that the results are defensible.

  2. It would certainly be so much easier to believe that we don’t have ISA if BC Salmon Farms Association would simply allow public testing by independent scientists of their farmed salmon – a promise grandly made by Mary Ellen Walling at the Cohen Commission, but never fulfilled.

    1. Thanks for your comment Gael but that is not what actually happened. The real story, as evidenced in the Cohen Commission transcripts, is that Ms. Miller wanted approval to test farmed fish samples for evidence of the ‘genomic signature’ she has been researching (paper is in our library) not ISA. BCSFA suggested she test historic samples of wild salmon first. Then she walked away from the table. BCSFA never refused to provide samples.

  3. Would you really expect anything different from Ms. Morton? It is clear to me that she has abandoned the scientific way and has embarked on discrediting the BC industry through demarketing and bad publicity – focusing primarily on the American market. With this sort of campaign there is no need for evidence. It is simple and takes very little money. Perception is more powerful than science it seems these days. Morton mearly needs to plant the seed, put in a some words to lead people in a certain direction and show LOTS of photos. Photos are the key because a provocative photo is worth a thousand words. It helps to have a following of people who pass this around. Hurray for the internet! For people who do not know what they are looking at or care to find out more this is a fairly easy sell.

    Morton is hungry for attention for this issue. With the Cohen Inquiry over now much of the momentum she was able to maintain through August, September and October last year has kind of fizzled. Harder to get funds when you are not on the front page. She has already tried to cling onto the Chinook salmon allocation issue on the South Coast and tried to make a connection to fish farms. You can expect something to be coming from her at least once a month. This has resulted in the media getting kind of tired of following her every word since the initial test results of those Sockeye smolts in Rivers Inlet. The job of getting her word out has been shifted over to websites which tend to agree with her views.

    It is bad science, but it is also very calculated. I applaud your site for stating your case in a respectful manner.

  4. Well said! Given the fact media hasn’t even bothered to touch this one, I would say even brainless media has figured it out.

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