Junk science attack on processing plant gets its facts totally wrong

Just because a study is peer-reviewed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good science.

Here’s a perfect example. A new paper published by John Volpe, Michael Price and Alexandra Morton — who have published more than a few studies among them with spurious claims and questionable data — suggests that farmed salmon from Nootka Sound processed on Quadra Island are threatening wild salmon with sea lice and diseases coming out the processing plant’s effluent pipe.

But there are some serious flaws with this paper that suggest it should be retracted.

For one thing, at the core of the study’s premise is the claim that “Walcan Seafood only processes fish from open-net salmon farms on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Dill 2011); therefore, the sea lice we recovered undoubtedly originated from infected Atlantic Salmon that were farmed in a distant region.”

Most people in Campbell River and on Quadra Island know that Walcan processes a lot more than farmed salmon. Walcan processes farmed salmon and wild sockeye. They process shellfish. They process whatever people pay them to process, and they do a great job of it.

Here’s an article from 2010 several months after Morton collected data for this study, featuring Walcan president Bill Pirie talking about how great the record sockeye run was that year for business.

Walcan workers are running off their feet, putting in 12 to 14-hour days, seven days a week as Campbell River area fishing boats bring in the sockeye for processing.

Here’s a video of the plant, taken around the same time Morton was collecting data for this study, showing the plant processing oysters.

But wait, there’s more. The source this paper cites says nothing that backs up the author’s claim. Click on the “Dill 2011” link above and look on page 29. Nowhere does Dill say that Walcan only processes farmed salmon from the west coast of Vancouver Island.

That’s a serious flaw in this paper that the peer-reviewers missed.

According to the four nitwit authors of this study, Walcan only processes farmed Atlantic salmon. Therefore, this photo is a lie.

And it’s important, because again, the paper’s central premise is that “Marine salmon farms and their processing facilities can serve as sources of virulent fish pathogens; our study is the first to confirm the broadcast of a live fish pathogen from a farmed salmon processing facility into the marine waters of Canada’s Pacific coast.”

This begs the question: What comes out of the effluent pipes of processing plants which process wild salmon? After all, there are well over 100 of them in BC.

Why didn’t the authors of the paper do a comparison with at least one of these other processing plants?

The answer is because they knew the comparison would disprove their hypothesis instantly.

Wild fish carry sea lice and diseases, too. They have done so since long before the first people came to BC and they continue to do so. Anyone who denies this fact is either lying to you, or just plain ignorant.

It’s guaranteed that if you go test the effluent pipes coming out of wild salmon processing facilities you will find stuff.

In fact, you will probably find more stuff than this paper shows, because farmed salmon processing facilities in BC — including Walcan — have spent more than $4 million installing effluent treatment and collection systems, which are not even required. They installed them because they believe it’s the right and responsible thing to do, and to show BC that salmon farmers and processors are doing everything they can to make sure there is no risk to wild salmon from their operations.

There’s another reason why farmed salmon processors have spent millions on these systems — so they can achieve the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices standard, assuring customers that salmon from those facilities are among the safest, most environmentally-sound and safest sources of seafood in the world.

In contrast, most wild processors discharge untreated effluent and bloodwater directly into the ocean.

The authors of this junk science paper fail to acknowledge any of that, instead building on a flimsy (and false) detail to construct a spurious conclusion, unsupported by any data — even their own.

This should never have been published. The authors should be ashamed of themselves for trying to fool people with such an obviously biased, flimsy piece of junk science and at the very least it should be retracted, corrected and the data compared with data collected from a wild salmon processing plant.

Then we might have some useful science that can actually tell us something instead of what this says, which is “We, the authors, hate farmed salmon and are willing to say anything to get you to agree with us.”



Read the full paper here.


3 thoughts on “Junk science attack on processing plant gets its facts totally wrong”

  1. Let see…..yeah…..the processing facility that supposedly only processes farmed salmon actually processes farmed and wild salmon. Kind of a big omission. Where does Larry Dill say that Walcan only processes farmed salmon, Mike? Find it for you us please. In fact, if you spend only a few minutes on Google you can see that Walcan processes Sockeye and Pink salmon as well as other finfish species like herring and sardines. How do we know that processing wild salmon is less riskier than processing farmed salmon? Why wasn’t any comparative work done considering that there are many other processing plants to choose from? The facility in question already processes wild salmon so why not collect samples when those fish were being processed, Mike? No opportunities back in 2010 when millions of Fraser Sockeye returned and fish processing was pushed to the limit? Why no mention that sea lice can be brought back by migrating adult wild salmon on their way back to their natal areas? Why no mention that wild Sockeye salmon can carry IHNV and other pathogens?

    The authors also failed to mention that a new treatment system was not in full use until 2011. Another huge omission because it goes to the heart of the data collected by the authors. The project was advertised and even mentioned in the Cohen Commission (Cohen Exhibit#1833). Funding for the new system was approved in 2009 and the system was being tested in 2010. The new tertiary treatment (which includes the use of UV light) at Walcan actually exceeds industry standards. Why is there not mention of this from the authors of the study, Mike? Was there any attempt by the authors to contact Walcan to see what they were doing with their waste treatment or future plans they had to improve it – like upgrading the system as mention above? Any mention by the authors about how BC’s wild fish processors treat their waste, Mike? How comparable are the standards with the salmon farming sector? It is good to be concern about this discharge, but the authors’ data was already obsolete by the time it was published. Outdated – sort like your criticism, Mike. Yep, sounds like junk science.

  2. Let’s see!! They went out to the pen site where the fish were being harvested, filmed and sampled the activity taking place on the harvest ship, followed the truck transporting the harvested Atlantics across the island to where they were being processed, dove in the waters
    off the processing plantand took samples from the effluent pipe coming from the plant, analysed those samples and completed and produced a peer reviewed paper. Yep sounds
    like junk science to me! Right up there with a bio-secure open net pen!

    1. Completely untrue, Mike, where are you getting that information that they sampled fish from the harvest boat, and that they actually followed the truck transporting those fish to the plant and then sampled the plant outflow whole those fish were being processed? It’s not in the paper anywhere. The only sampling mentioned in the paper is this:

      We collected two effluent samples from an outflow pipe (20-cm diameter; Figure 2) located 27 m below the surface by using a plankton net (50-cm diameter; 125-µm mesh) during two daylight-hour dives conducted at slack tide on February 3 and 8, 2010.

      We also collected 20 plankton samples during May and June 2010…

      That’s it. The paper’s conclusions are based on very little data and a lot of speculation. Your version of events is an entertaining fiction.

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