Tag Archives: sensationalism

The Baffled Biologist

The image speaks for itself.

baffled_biologist

About VHS

Previous article

 

Advertisements

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.

Morton attack on Grieg Seafood is unintentionally hilarious

Thanks for the laugh today, Alexandra Morton.

Her latest blog post, written in the style of a mystery / spy story, contained this gem:

We observed a smelly slick of fish oil seeping from the pens. A biological oil spill. Farm salmon are so fat that when mass die-offs happen they release large amounts of fat.

1778340

Once we were done laughing, we asked ourselves, if that’s true, then why aren’t the back eddies of our rivers covered in an “oil slick” when millions of spawning salmon die and decompose in them every fall? How come when fatty seals and sea lions die, they don’t leave an oil slick? In fact, given the number of creatures that die in the ocean every day, how home the entire surface of the ocean isn’t covered with an oil slick all the time?

Morton took water samples to test for the presence of algae (analyzed in the sterile environment of her hotel room), perhaps she could test them for the presence of fish oil as well to back up that statement.

Otherwise, this is just another one of her loaded weasel word statements meant to paint a word picture of how awful farmed salmon is, in her view.

Another weasel word tactic she uses in this post is that she does not include everything Grieg Seafood CEO Morten Vike had to say about her previous allegations, focusing instead on his use of the word “fine.”

Well, Vike did have more to say, which Morton should have included since she knows full well the source is behind a paywall that almost none of her readers will be able to access.

Here’s the rest of what Vike had to say:

Vike
Algae blooms can kill farmed salmon quite effectively. Why didn’t Morton ask the local company fish health reps what was going on, instead of public “name and shame” letters to the corporate head office and the hilarious cloak-and-dagger spy routine?

Also, if she really wanted to know if there was an algae bloom, she could have asked the fine folks at the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program, which regularly receives and analyzes water samples from salmon farms all around Vancouver Island. It’s more than likely that this farm sent in samples, too.

But as we discussed earlier today, to many people, opinions are more important than facts.

 

No Fukushima radiation health risk from Canadian fish

The dangers of radiation from the Fukushima disaster have been greatly overblown thanks to things such as this image, which have wrongfully been used to represent radiation from Japan.
The dangers of radiation from the Fukushima disaster have been greatly overblown thanks to things such as this image, which have wrongfully been used to represent radiation from Japan.

A new study published this spring shows that there is no radioactive material from Fukushima in salmon and groundfish.

None of the fish samples analysed in this study contained any detectable levels of 134Cs and 137Cs under given experimental setting with a detection limit of ∼2 Bq kg−1. Fish (such as salmon and groundfish) from the Canadian west coast are of no health concern for both radiation contaminants and naturally occurring radionuclides.

As simulations predicted, in the near future, the radioactive water plume could reach the areas where these fish are rearing(1). Even in this case, it is expected that levels of radioactive contaminants in fish will remain well below Health Canada guidelines for food and likely still below the detection limit of a few Bq kg−1. Nonetheless, further monitoring of 134Cs and 137Cs, especially the long-lived 137Cs, in ocean water and seafood will help confirm these assessments and ensure public safety.

It’s safe to assume that farmed fish grown in the same waters also pose no health concern when it comes to Fukushima radiation.

Read the full study here.

Activist Alexandra Morton makes her lie even bigger

It would appear I touched a nerve with this post last week.

Annoyed by being caught in a lie, Alexandra Morton mobilized her followers to copy-paste this in the comments section:

I don’t generally respond to people who like to sling mud without posting their names. I feel it is cowardly and means they do not really believe in what they are saying, but in this case I want to set the record straight.

The reason I stated on 60 Minutes that nobody is actually looking at wild salmon carefully for ISA virus (except me) is because the CFIA is using a test called “virus isolation” that has never worked anywhere on wild salmon. It requires so much virus that wild salmon infected at that level likely have been caught by the predators that follow them.

If the CFIA wanted to know if ISA is in BC – they would have tested the farmed Atlantic salmon that are known carriers of the virus, they would have retested all the positive samples from the labs who are getting positive results and they would have used the same tests as these labs and figured out what these results mean. Instead they destroy and silence labs and carry on using a test that has never worked. When this virus goes deadly in BC, we will have all these people on record. It won’t help our coast, but it might help people somewhere else in protecting themselves from this industry.

American ISA test results

Notice how Morton focuses on the CFIA, and makes no mention of the thousands of tests done on wild salmon by Alaska and Washington states. Pretending they don’t exist won’t make them go away.

Those of you who hang on her every word should really ask why she never acknowledges these American test results — thousands of tests of wild Pacific salmon done since 2011 — which show no evidence of ISA virus.

The second lie

Morton says “the CFIA is using a test called ‘virus isolation’ that has never worked anywhere on wild salmon.”

This is another one of Morton’s attempts to trick people about how virus testing works, and to cast doubt on CFIA tests.

The fact is, “virus isolation” is nothing strange or unusual — it’s a common, internationally-accepted method to confirm whether or not you’ve actually detected a virus. The CFIA, Washington and Alaska are all using the same methods described in the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)  Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals. Yes, “virus isolation” is one of two key methods outlined in this manual for confirming virus.

And, according to the manual, these methods have worked in confirming ISA virus in wild salmon and wild trout (Kibenge et al., 2004; Plarre et al., 2005).

The third lie

Morton says, “If the CFIA wanted to know if ISA is in BC – they would have tested the farmed Atlantic salmon that are known carriers of the virus.”

They did.

 

The half-truth

Morton says CFIA should have “retested all the positive samples from the labs who are getting positive results and they would have used the same tests as these labs and figured out what these results mean.”

They retested the freezer-burnt fish from Rivers Inlet which Morton presented in a SFU press conference back in 2011.

But since there’s no way to tell where any of her other samples since then actually came from, there’s no point in testing more of them.

Dr. Greenwood, of the Canadian food agency, said that research to determine where one of Ms. Morton’s market-purchased samples came from produced conflicting accounts from people in the supply chain. Without a clear chain of custody, she said, there was no point testing the fish at all. She said there had been no attempt to cover up anything.

“We couldn’t even verify that that fish was in fact Canadian in origin,” she said.

The record is far from straight, Alex

Morton insists on spreading lies and half-truths about scientific methods and test results. She is so hell-bent on getting rid of salmon farms that she’ll say and do almost anything.

Hopefully her followers will investigate her claims for themselves, and question her about things like the American ISA test results.

Here’s a few key points to remember when they do so.

2014-05-20 11_09_29-CULTWATCH _ How Cults Work 2014-05-20 11_08_40-CULTWATCH _ How Cults Work 2014-05-20 11_09_11-CULTWATCH _ How Cults Work