Category Archives: Cranks

Critics still talking crap about farmed salmon poop

trashtalkycows

The entire BC farmed salmon industry produces about as much poop every year as 409 dairy cows.

That’s it. That’s barely the equivalent of two average-sized BC dairy farms.

This is important because one of the most common criticisms leveled at salmon farms is that they are using the ocean as an “open sewer.” As usual, the risks are vastly blown out of proportion.

Our favourite activist Alexandra Morton likes to say that salmon farmers are one of the only farmers that “don’t have to shovel their manure” and that we should all be very concerned and scared of farmed salmon poop because there’s so much of it and it’s full of “chemicals.”

We hear or read this one at least a few times each week. And it’s true. It’s also true that, as usual, Morton is telling half-truths distorted by her obsession with the scatology of salmon.

So how bad is it really? Well, for one thing, fish poop is a lot more benign than human poop because they eat a way healthier diet than most of us. And for another thing, recent research shows the environmental impacts are hardly noticeable.

 

Old data, old arguments

Before we get to the new data, we have to consider the old, and it’s really old. The tidbits of info you’ve probably heard are almost all certainly based on information published back when the Vancouver Canucks still played in Pacific Coliseum.

Some environmental activists still claim (without providing a source) that a farm of “200,000 fish can produce as much fecal matter per year as a city of 62,000 people.”

Others, quoting even more ancient sources from the 1980s and 1990s, claim that the waste from a farm is equivalent to a city the size of Victoria, BC.

They’re all wrong. Time to catch up to the latest science.

The Hardangerfjord in Norway produces as much farmed salmon as all of BC. Plus it makes a great desktop wallpaper.
The Hardangerfjord in Norway produces as much farmed salmon as all of BC. Plus it makes a great desktop wallpaper.

Studying the Hardangerfjord

The Hardangerfjord is the second-largest fjord in Norway and possibly the most beautiful. It’s also home to enough salmon farms to produce 70,000 metric tonnes of fish each year. That’s nearly equivalent to the total capacity of all salmon farms in BC.

According to research published just two years ago, all the salmon farms in the Hardangerfjord produce 7,000 tonnes of particulate organic waste (as well as organic phosphorus and nitrogen, included in the 7,000 tonne total); 127 tonnes of dissolved inorganic phosphorus and 770 tonnes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen.

So all the farmed salmon in the Hardangerfjord produce 7,897 tonnes of waste. Considering that the BC industry is very similar to the farms in Hardangerfjord, with very similar fish, feeding practices and almost identical feed, it’s pretty safe to assume that the BC industry produces about the same amount of waste per year as Hardangerfjord.

Fish poop vs human poop vs cow poop

The average human makes about 128 grams of poop each day (more after Taco Tuesdays). That’s 46.72 kilograms per year.

The average dairy cow produces 19.6 tonnes of poop (and urine) per year.

That means all the salmon farms in BC, all around Vancouver Island, produce as much poop as 169,028 people each year, and as much poop as 409 dairy cows. 

We can’t think of another farming industry that produces so much healthy protein with such little waste.

So next time someone tells you that one salmon farm produces as much poop as a city, you can tell them that’s just a load of crap.

Ecojustice statement a Superbowl-sized insult to BC’s professional veterinarians

Like Doug Baldwin at the Superbowl, Ecojustice uses their victory to take a big, gloating dump on their opponents.
Like Doug Baldwin at the Superbowl, Ecojustice uses their “victory” to take a big, gloating dump on their opponents.

It’s enough to make you sick.

Last December, Alexandra Morton managed to convince Ecojustice to back her personal vendetta against someone who once made her look bad.

This month, the College of Veterinary Biologists relented (probably to stop the annoying Ecojustice press releases) and decided to set the Wayback Machine to 2007 and investigate her complaint.

"But Mr. Peabody, what does it matter if someone accidentally said something wrong 8 years ago?"  "Quiet you, this is PERSONAL."
“But Mr. Peabody, what does it matter if someone accidentally said something wrong 8 years ago?”
“Quiet you, this is PERSONAL.”

In the spirit of poor sportsmanship, Ecojustice, which exists to sue businesses and organizations over perceived environmental malfeasance, published this gem recently calling the College’s decision a “victory” for Ecojustice.

They earn themselves the Doug Baldwin Sportsmanship Award for the final comment:

“With this victory, the College better understands both its duty to investigate complaints from the public and its duty to ensure veterinarians are held accountable for their veterinary practices.”

The college knows its duty, and does it well.  This backhanded, smug slap at every single professional veterinarian in BC, in aquaculture or otherwise, is a disgrace, an insult and shows the anti-science ignorance – and possibly outright cynicism — of the lawyers involved in this case.

Coda

PS – Apparently Alexandra Morton is building another new house on Sointula. Keep on sending in those non-tax-refundable donations!

Can you bang a drum? Dial-a-protester needs you!

While reviewing video from a recent farmed salmon protest in the Lower Mainland last week (published on Jan. 26), we noticed a couple curious things.

For one thing, the “science” spouted by the personalities in the clip is total nonsense, urban legends and old wives’ tales crafted to scare people. There’s no evidence for anything they say.

That’s not the curious part, that’s just normal for this crowd. The curious part was that no shoppers were listening. Maybe they don’t like people banging drums and shouting at them for some reason.

The other curious thing was the appearance of one particular individual, Audrey Siegl, who also appeared in another video published this week.

Audrey Siegel protests farmed salmon at Costco in Vancouver Jan. 24.
Audrey Siegl protests farmed salmon at Costco in Vancouver Jan. 24.
Audrey Siegl helps disrupt a private dinner party for Vancouver Wharves employees on Jan. 24.
Audrey Siegl helps disrupt a private dinner party in North Vancouver for Vancouver Wharves employees on Jan. 24.

It was a busy day for Ms. Siegl! Protesting farmed salmon in the afternoon, then crashing the wrong dinner party to protest pipelines in the evening!

Guess the motto “have drum, will travel” is taken seriously by this group.

Eco-lawyers get sucked into personal vendetta in nuisance lawsuit

Ecojustice is a charity which exists to file environment-related lawsuits against corporations and the government. Once again, they’ve set their sights on the topic of salmon aquaculture at the behest of Alexandra Morton.

But what the idealistic and eager team of lawyers hoping to sink their teeth into the next “Erin Brockovitch” case might not realize is that they, and everyone who donates money to them, are being sucked into one woman’s personal vendetta against someone who once made her look foolish.

scumbag_morton_1

The Case

Ecojustice is suing the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia for, it says, “refusing to investigate a complaint Ms. Morton made against a government aquaculture veterinarian. The lawsuit seeks to force the College to investigate the complaint.”

Ecojustice, and Morton, allege that in 2007 the provincial aquaculture veterinarian, Mark Sheppard, misled the provincial Minister Of Agriculture and Lands with incorrect information about the ISA virus and Atlantic salmon egg imports into BC. They are filing the lawsuit to  “investigate whether the veterinarian’s erroneous advice amounted to professional misconduct.”

The nut of it is that in the memo signed by Sheppard, the grammar structure of one sentence suggests he is saying BC doesn’t, didn’t, or never has (the grammar is unclear) imported Atlantic salmon eggs.

That’s it.

This lawsuit is as pedantic as they come.

But the 2007 memo isn’t even what it’s really about.

It’s personal.

The Background

In 2007, Dr. Mark Sheppard joined the provincial government as its aquatic animal health veterinarian. He served there until a court challenge by Morton resulted in aquaculture regulation responsibilities moving from the province to DFO.

Interestingly, despite the Supreme Court of BC decision, aquaculture on the East Coast of Canada still remains under provincial jurisdiction.

The Testimony

In 2010, after a poor return of Fraser River sockeye in 2009 prompted a flurry of public concern and a federal commission of inquiry, both Morton and Sheppard spoke to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa.

Morton spent her audience with the committee congratulating herself on how easy it is to study sea lice (her words) and predicting environmental doom because of salmon farms.

Two days later, Sheppard spoke to the committee, which posed many of Morton’s concerns to him as questions. He clearly explained why Morton was wrong, and why some of her statements were “misleading and quite frankly, irresponsible.”

He went on to definitively pin her to the wall.

“Some people–who are not qualified to make comments on it in my
opinion–have decided to put forth a wildly speculative conclusion… That case in itself is just a matter of someone who either doesn’t understand the science or simply prefer to move forth with a perspective to suit their agenda.”

The Vendetta

Morton was left looking like a hysterical fool by Sheppard’s factual, honest testimony. And as we’ve seen with the Character Assassination of Simon Jones, she holds grudges against anyone who exposes her scientific ignorance and her predilection to manipulate science to her own ends.

After DFO took over BC salmon farming regulation, Sheppard went to work with DFO as lead veterinarian for aquatic environmental operations. He recently left DFO to pursue a private veterinary practice in Campbell River.

And that’s when Ecojustice and Morton dredged up this smear campaign. If Sheppard gets dragged into the case, he’ll have to do it all on his own dime, since he no longer works for the government.

It’s a mean-spirited vendetta by a woman ruthless in her pursuit to be right.  It’s going to be a waste of time and money for the College of Veterinarians, and it’s a smear on the reputation of a man who was conscientious, careful, and most of all committed to protecting the environment while he served both the provincial and federal governments.

Anyone who donates to Ecojustice should be embarrassed their money is being spent on nuisance lawsuits like this.

BONUS: Why opinions in BC about salmon farming are polarized

During his testimony to the standing committee, Sheppard accurately described why salmon aquaculture in BC is perceived as a controversial issue.

“It is frustrating. There appear to be two different stories, but I think that’s largely because the silent majority, the credible scientists who bring a modicum of objectivity to this entire topic, don’t appear in the newspaper or on the Internet. They publish their articles, they’re factual, and the average Canadian citizen doesn’t read them. It’s very technical information. So communication is one problem.

I think there needs to be better communication from the industry,
better communication in lay terms from the scientific community, and from the provincial and federal governments.

Instead what we hear is the vocal minority who, quite frankly, are not aquaculture specialists. Rather, they are anti-aquaculture specialists. They’re very good at what they do. They’re very
intelligent people, very passionate people, and they’re very good at communicating to the media and to the Internet. For the majority of Canadians, that’s what they hear. Of course, that’s what
they will believe because they’re only hearing one side of the story.

…there is a tremendous amount of collaboration on the go in
British Columbia right now between the industry, fish farmers, and the ENGOs who are willing, of course, wanting things to improve, as the farmers are, and as the province is. There’s always room for improvement, but there is a tremendous amount of collaboration that is happening: joint funding, joint projects, both looking at the same things, comparing notes. There is an awful lot of transparency and communication between those groups. Again, that’s the helpful group.

There is another faction that is just quite simply anti-aquaculture, and that’s where the transparency stops. That’s where the information is not generally forthcoming because, in many
cases, the information is abused.”

Alexandra Morton jumps on the anti-vaccine crazy train with funding campaign that insults donors

Alexandra Morton has just self-shredded any last vestiges of credibility she may have had with her cynical new ad campaign, in which she tells tall tales while pandering to the lowest common denominator of stupidity.

With the two ads shown so far (below) she’s jumped on the anti-vaccine crazy train AND got a first-class ticket in the Food Woo Clown Car up front. Her ads assume that the people who will read them are stupid, gullible suckers. She is insulting the very people from whom she is soliciting donations.

Insult #1: Consequence-free fundraising

The campaign hasn’t launched yet, but she’s panhandling for money through a crowd-funding website. The kind of fundraising site that doesn’t issue tax-deductible receipts for the charitable causes it hosts.

Crowdfunding has a positive place in the charity landscape, but it is also ripe for abuse.

So guess what she’s going to do, suckers. She’s going to fool you. You’ll never know exactly how she spends all the consequence-free cash you’re giving her. She has no obligation to ever tell you. All you have is her word.

There’s no action plan attached to the campaign. The only commitment is to “make a high impact advertising purchase to run a series of ads.”

That could mean anything.

Sure, you might see a few billboards in Vancouver, or a newspaper ad in the Sun. But you’ll never know the true cost of the ad campaign. You’ll never know if she’s pocketed the leftover cash.

Here’s a tip: if you donate, ask her to publish all receipts related to the campaign on her blog. After all, if she’s so trustworthy, she’s got nothing to hide, right?

Insult #2: Anti-vaccine crazy train ad

Oooh, a scary syringe, evoking fears of needles, something unnatural, something BAD!
Oooh, a scary syringe, evoking fears of needles, something unnatural, something BAD!

First of all, look at how this ad is attributed to “Department of Wild Salmon” and the deptwildsallmon.org website. Currently that link forwards to alexandramorton.ca, Morton’s personal website and the heart of this campaign. But isn’t it interesting that if this campaign takes a turn that’s not in her favour, she could simply disconnect that link between the sites? Clever, n’est pas?

Second, the ad implies, through the use of a syringe, that farmed salmon are injected with drugs for delousing.

 WRONG.

Sea lice treatments are provided in feed. Guess a dog food-like pellet doesn’t make for a scary image though.

The only time farmed salmon ever receive injections is when they are vaccinated at the hatchery against common ocean diseases.

Morton knows this. She knows sea lice treatments are given only in feed.

We can only conclude that by attempting to link injections, salmon and scariness, Morton is putting herself in the same camp as anti-vaccine idiots, and she’s doing it wilfully. That’s cynical, and could possibly even be seen as libelous, if anyone feels like getting litigious over these ads.

PS – Organic chickens are vaccinated, too.

Insult #3: “You are what you eat” malarkey

By implying that eating something that eats "unsavory" ingredients, Morton also rules out organic mushrooms, which derive nutrients from horse manure.
By implying that eating something that eats “unsavory” ingredients is bad, Morton also rules out organic mushrooms, which derive nutrients from horse manure.

Yes, salmon feed can contain protein from hogs. So what? Mushrooms grow in horse manure. And guess what. Organic poultry eat feed that includes fishmeal. Chickens would never eat fish in the “wild,” so if farmed salmon eating hog and chicken protein is bad, then so is organic chicken eating anything but bugs and grass.

Salmon convert pork protein into salmon protein. Mushrooms convert manure nutrients into mushrooms. It doesn’t mean that if you eat mushrooms you are eating manure (unless you don’t wash them) and it doesn’t mean that if you eat salmon you are eating pork.

You are NOT what you eat, unless you break it down to the very basic levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Morton is banking on the ignorance of the general public when it comes to farming animals, nutrition and food. Ignorance is one thing, which is easily corrected. But Morton is also banking on the hopes that her audience will be too stupid and gullible to carefully consider her claims.

That’s the insult.

Insult #4: Implying negative health consequences

In the text on her crowdfunding page, Morton stops short of saying that eating farmed salmon is bad for your health, because she knows there’s no proof for that statement (but plenty to the opposite). But you can tell she really wants to when she says “Meanwhile controversy is boiling over in Norway on the health risks of eating farmed salmon echoed by the premier US business news service Bloomberg.

But that’s not true, either. The Scientific Steering Committee of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety recently published nearly 300 pages of independent, unbiased research showing that seafood, including farmed salmon, is safe to eat regularly for all ages.

There’s hardly a controversy. Unless one or two unqualified people disagreeing with hundreds of qualified people counts as “controversy.”

If you want to give money to this woman, it’s your wallet. But beware. She’s showing an alarming lack of scruples in this latest campaign.

Footnote: Just like Food Babe

Dr. Amy Tuteur, who blogs as the Skeptical OB, has posted a fascinating piece this month looking at the Food Babe and selling fear.

If you haven’t heard of the Food Babe, she’s a self-proclaimed expert who has made a name for herself, and a huge following, by examining, criticizing and condemning the ingredient lists on food packaging.

As Tuteur shows, she is also banking on a gullible, uneducated audience to promote herself and make a living.

Morton seems to be taking the same approach.

New salmon aquaculture-bashing film looks like it’s gonna be a humdinger of a crockumentary

There are a lot of films we would like to see made.

Like “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”, or “Ernest Goes to Hell” (RIP Jim Varney).

Don't know about you, but, we'd watch the HELL outta this, hur hur hur!
Don’t know about you, but, we’d watch the HELL outta this, hur hur hur!

 

On a more serious, latte-sipping intelligentsia-wanna-be note, there are a lot of documentaries we would like to see made.

Like a documentary about where the hell ISIS came from, or about the Vancouver Island Marmot.

Instead we got this.

Another fawning stroke for Alexandra Morton's already planetoid-sized ego.
Another fawning strokey-strokey for Alexandra Morton’s already planetoid-sized ego.

Yes , nobody asked for this but apparently Scott Renyard decided to assist our favourite activist in reliving the glory days, when she sort-of walked down Vancouver Island to hang around on the Leg lawn and wave signs and shout at The Man with a bunch of her friends one afternoon.

The role salmon farmers play in "The Pristine Coast" because the filmmaker apparently can't handle the thought of allowing different viewpoints.
The role salmon farmers play in “The Pristine Coast” because the filmmaker apparently can’t handle the thought of allowing different viewpoints.

Not surprisingly, the list of co-stars is all the usual suspects, who have made nice careers out of opposing salmon farming. No salmon farmers were invited to participate.

What do these usual suspects actually do to help wild salmon? Not much other than talk.

So expect this movie to be a bunch of talking heads, Morton walking along riverbanks while soothing music plays in the background, closeups of dead fish while alarming music plays in the background and nonsensical conspiracy theories, fading to black only after a helicopter long shot of our “Pristine Coast” masterfully timed to avoid any scenes of deforestation, log dumps, cargo barges full of cheap Chinese crap heading north to the Anchorage WalMart and giant barges of gravel and coal heading back to China.

It’s not ever going to be a “famous documentary” but it would certainly fit on this list of “Famous Documentaries That Were Shockingly Full Of Crap.”

This crockumentary will never make out it out of small-time film festival purgatory, but if you do get a chance to watch it, leave a comment here and let us know what you think.