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Salmon Farms refuse to release disease information if the province of BC makes fish farm disease public

Eighteen years of secrets, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and Gordon Campbell

(May 28, 2010 Sointula) In July 1992, IHN virus broke out in Atlantic salmon smolts as they were put in salmon farm in Okisollo Channel. Okisollo is within the Fraser sockeye migration route. Even though the Fraser sockeye were migrating through the area, no one called for the IHN infected farm salmon to be culled. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) kept this epidemic secret from the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (MELP) even though there was a disease sharing protocol in place. When MELP heard “rumors” of this IHN outbreak three months later, MAFF still refused to give them the details of the outbreak. The policy in enhancement hatcheries is to destroy IHN infected smolts to prevent spreading to wild salmon.

Today, MAL is misinforming the public about the extent of past IHN outbreaks on their website and in a recent legal decision all BC salmon farming companies state they will refuse to reveal disease records if their reports to MAL are made public.

Note: MAL and MAFF are the same agency and MELP and MOE are the same.

1992 memos - a trail of secrets and disregard for wild salmon health

October 5 1992 Don Peterson at MELP : “Our fish health staff report …. rumours of an IHN virus outbreak in Atlantic salmon… Please provide …information …..IHNV is easily transmitted to trout and Pacific salmon species and we need to make an assessment of risk to wild stocks please respond ASAP.”

October 8, 1992 Don Peterson, MELP: “Had a call from Al Castledine (MAFF3) ….There has been an outbreak….DFO doesn’t want this to become an issue at this time, Al specifically asked that we not make a media issue of this – at least not until DFO has their act together.” This was 4 months after the outbreak began

October 28, 1992 the Minister of MELP John Cashore to MAFF: “IHN virus is lethal to trout and steelhead. These wild fish inhabit the marine environment where this farm is located… my Fish Culture staff only learned of this incident very recently …. There is … a protocol agreement that is intended to alert each of our agencies when problems such as this arise….the breakdown in communication could have potentially serious consequences for fish stocks….”

November 12, 1992 Harvey Andrusak MELP to MAFF: “The recent outbreak of IHN virus in Atlantic salmon smolts owned by BC Packers causes considerable concern for the Fisheries Branch of MELP….I request your cooperation.”

November 19, 1992 J. E. Fralick MAFF to MELP “results are considered proprietary by our Animal Health Branch and cannot be released. I firmly believe…the IHN outbreak poses very minimal risk to wild stocks.”

November 27, 1992 H. Andrusak, MELP to MAFF “I am disappointed with your response….when MAFF is asked for information…we are referred to DFO, when we ask DFO, I am referred to you. This is unacceptable….fish health is the responsibility of DFO … and MELP….why is MAFF involved in fish health at all?”

December 17, 1992 G.R.Armstrong MELP “Prior to the IHN outbreak, fish health scientists believed that IHN was transmitted only in fresh water. The significance of the outbreak is that it apparently occurred in sea water…Atlantic salmon farms are now a potential vector for transfer of IHN.”

January 5, 1993 G.R. Armstrong MELP to MAFF “I do not understand how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can have little concern for IHN simply because it is endemic to wild salmon…. Atlantic salmon in pens are now a potential vector.”

While the 100,000s of Atlantic salmon in the IHN infected fish farm were left in the ocean on the Fraser salmon migration route, 300,000 trout were culled in a provincial hatchery in 1991 due to IHN. B.C. Environment, Lands and Park – Information Issue 92-35

When Gordon Campbell took office in 2001 he cancelled MELP and so the BC public lost the only team of bureaucrats who were fighting to protect our wild salmon from corporate salmon.

MAL website today - inaccurate

Have things improved, No.

While the MAL website acknowledges there have been IHN outbreaks in Atlantic salmon farms, it grossly misinforms the public about the timing and location of the outbreaks.

“Outbreaks of this disease (IHN) in Atlantic salmon farms in British Columbia occurred in 1992, 1995, 1996,1997 and 2001. All reported cases occurred within the Campbell River area.” .http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ahc/fish_health/IHNV.htm (website updated May 16, 2004)

In fact, there were in 12 million Atlantic salmon infected from 2001 – 2003 over 400km of the BC coast from Clayoquot Sound to Klemtu (Saksida 2006). More than 1/3 of BC’s wild salmon and many Washington State salmon use this area and were challenged with this highly infectious disease generation after generation. The BC Liberal government did nothing to stem this flow of pathogens.

February 2002 - BC Supreme Court Injunction identifies IHN risk to wild salmon

When a salmon farm in the Broughton Archipelago tried to dispose of 1.6 million IHN infected farm salmon in 2002, BC Supreme Court granted the Musqueam First Nations an injunction to prevent delivery of these fish to a processing plant in the Fraser River because these fish threatened the Fraser River’s wild salmon with IHN.

What about the other 10 million left in net pens on the marine migratory routes used by the Fraser all south coast, and Clayoquot wild salmon and steelhead?

March 1, 2010 - Ruling forces MAL to release fish farm disease information and fish farmers threaten to cease all public reporting of disease outbreaks

Four years ago the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation filed a Freedom of Information request to MAL for salmon farm disease records. MAL refused. But BC’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled on March 1, 2010 that MAL could not legally conceal this information and to release it by April 12, 2010. In the decision, the fish farm companies of BC are on the record stating if their disease information is released they will never report diseases to the province of BC ever again. (see below) T. Buck Suzuki is still awaiting full disclosure.

“Mainstream flatly submits that it will not supply similar information when it

is in the public interest that similar information continues to be supplied.66

Mainstream does not explicitly say there is no authority under which it may be

compelled to provide data for the audit.”

“Marine Harvest submits there are “no regulations or laws” which require it

to release the information it gives to Ministry veterinarians or designates during

on-site visits. It states that release of the requested information would result in

Mainstream no longer supplying the requested information”

“Grieg Seafoods contends there is no statutory requirement that allows

the collection of audit data and that it only provides data on the understanding

the data would be kept confidential. It states it will no longer submit the data if

the applicant‟s access request is granted”

“Creative Salmon argues that it provides audit information on a voluntary

basis and if the applicant’s access request is granted it will “immediately cease

to volunteer further information to the Ministry”


How can the governments of Canada and British Columbia allow this ongoing suppression of information that is clearly in the public interest and the courts have ruled threatens a resource the people of Canada and British Columbia are passionate about? Salmon farms are in the public waters of Canada, they are leasing Crown Land supposedly “to provide the greatest benefits for British Columbians” (Crown Lands BC website) and they do not legally own their fish. Will the BC Liberal government allow them to operate in secret, to the detriment of a highly valued public resource? We will all get to find out.

This has got to stop.

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