Prudent Press


Public hearings in Judicial hearing of Sockeye Salmon raises more questions and shocking allegations of wrongdoing


The report into the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River held public hearings, that were revealed on December 15, 16 and 19, 2011. The documents contained chilling testimony. Alexandra Morton, long standing defender of the B.C. wild salmon had this to say on the Cohen Commission

The final three days [of the hearing] were on the explosive findings of ISA virus in BC wild salmon. The Commission brought us two groups of people; the scientists who are actually running the ISA virus tests and a subset of the people who seemed to be in charge of managing the release of fish health information. The Cohen Commission did us a great service. They not only allowed key scientists from across the Northern Hemisphere to tell us why we should believe their test results – whether or not ISA virus is in BC waters, they also caused a highly informative discussion between these scientists comparing methods. The one government lab that cannot find ISA virus is using a machine known to have trouble detecting low levels of ISA virus. It is that simple! This would never have been known without the Cohen Commission. Scientists interested in ISA virus and why some labs can detect it and some not, can learn a great deal in reading December 15 and the morning of the 16th and examining the exhibits. Some diseases are clearly a threat to trade, and so the public is discouraged from knowing anything about them. Hatcheries are asked not to test, pathologists were hindered in trying to figure out why millions of Fraser sockeye are dying just before spawning and salmon farms are off limits to most researchers. The information about these diseases has to be tightly controlled. To put everything in context I start with an exchange sparked in the final minutes of the Cohen Inquiry by Krista Robertson, lawyer for the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council – the First Nations of the Broughton Archipelago. Dr. Klotins works for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Here is why fish health is a federal secret:


From the Public Hearing results (December 19, pg. 118)
ROBERTSON: Safe trade. But is it also part of the mandate of the CFIA to ensure that trade is – trade interests of Canadian companies or companies operating in Canada such as Norwegian fish farm companies, are not harmed by any kind of finding or allegation of disease?

DR KLOTINS: …So if, let’s say, we do find ISA in B.C. and all of a sudden markets are closed, our role [CFIA] is then to try to renegotiate or negotiate market access to those countries. Now what it will be is a matter of they’ll let us know what the requirements are. We’ll let them know what we can do and whether we can meet that market access. If we can’t meet it, then there will be no trade basically.

The public hearings within the Commission’s findings have led some to conclude that there has been significant corruption and government secrecy on the issue, along with political motivations and a willful intent to deceive the public. Dr. Sally Goldes, a 17-year fish health section head for the BC Environment Ministry, testified during the reconvened Cohen inquiry that “current Canada Fish Health Protection Rules do not provide a high level of regulatory security against the introduction of Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) into British Columbia. If you really look closely at the regulations, from a scientific basis, there is not the high degree of protection that the government, and particularly DFO, states that they have.

DFO scientist Dr. Kristi Miller, took the initiative to do her own testing on wild and farmed salmon. She concluded that an ISA virus, or something that is 95 percent similar to the strain afflicting farmed Atlantic salmon in Norway, Scotland,Maritime Canada and Chile, is present in BC waters. And her review of DFO’s archival fish samples shows that markers for ISAv had been present in BC since 1986, shortly after Atlantic salmon were first farmed here. A study by Dr. Molly Kibenge suggested Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv) was found in B.C. back in 2004. There was a UN convention which stipulated that “evidence or suspicion” of ISAv should have been reported, and this was never done. The evidence of ISAv was also not reported in the beginning phase of the Cohen Commission hearings either.

The lawyers Alexandra Morton worked with in the Cohen, Greg McDade and Lisa Glowacki of Ratcliff and Company wrote a final argument regarding the ISA virus hearings. This was a supplementary argument into the ISA hearings aquaculture coalition produced on December 29, 2011. The document provided several key arguments against the DFO and the CFIA.

1) Evidence of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA), ISAv (Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus) was present in B.C. as per the evidence of Dr. Kibenge, Dr. Nylund, or Dr. Miller.

2) There was also failure of the DFO Moncton Lab to confirm the results. “The consistent failure of the Moncton lab to be able to find the evidence of the virus clearly found by the three other labs involved in the testing does not and cannot disprove the clear positive findings in the other three labs. Rather, it suggests the incapacity of the Moncton lab, it’s methodology, or its diagnostic equipment.

3) DFO did not do further testing, or attempt to reproduce the results. “Instead it buried the results completely for seven years. It decided to not test any further wild salmon. This reaction is not consistent with the scientific method or a precautionary approach – rather it shows action of a political nature – denial and suppression of an inconvenient fact. In legal terms, it is known as willful blindness, also characterized in some circumstances as gross negligence.”

4) The document also questioned the validity of one of the head individuals – Dr. Marty and his lab, in order to find ISA in 4,700+ Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests between 2004-2010. “Dr. Marty conducted PCR tests with no confirmed validity, and his PCR test was developed in-house, by a masters student. This methodology used a primer that had never been through the validation process.” Polymerase Chain Reaction is a scientific technique in molecular biology to amplify a single or a few copies of a piece of DNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence.

5) The document demonstrated the risk of aquaculture for Wild Salmon Disease. It states, “The continued rise of novel pathogens in BC’s wild salmon requires scrutiny of the wisdom of placing fish farms on wild salmon migratory routes. Fish farms create significant risk to wild salmon in two major ways: a) as a source of new diseases; and b) by providing an ideal – and unnatural – environment for amplification of endemic diseases, and for mutation of new diseases and increased virulence of existing ones.

6) Reaction of the Federal government through the DFO and CFIA was one of denial and suppression. “Rather than turning their primary efforts to protection of the wild salmon, DFO and CFIA reacted against the initial reports of ISAv as a public relations and trade problem….the presense of a new virus in fish should cause scientific interest not political suppression.

7) DFO and CFIA sought to jepordize the outcomes of research into ISAv through denial, undermining the lab, and preventing other labs from testing. And the most damning evidence, was that there was a plan to manipulate the media.

8. In an email correspondence made by Acting Regional Director of CFIA Dr. Beres to Dr. Cornelius Kiley, director of the National Aquatic Animal Health Program for the CFIA and senior media representative on the matter, he said,

It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour – and this is because of the very successful performance of our spokes at the Tech Briefing yesterday – you, Stephen, Peter and Paul were a terrific team, indeed. Congratulations! One battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war, also. Cheers Joe.

In response to an email from Dr. Kiley National Director he said,

Concentrate on the headlines – that’s often all that people read or remember. Both the “Top Stories” and the “related articles”.

The document asks, “what does this email say about the corporate culture of CFIA, and the approach to provision of information to the public?”

Indeed, this should be a question every Canadian should be asking themselves.


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  1. Pingback: Analysis – Canada’s Code of SilencePrudent Press

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