Group Questions Canadian Government’s Salmon Farm Transparency

An environmental group in Vancouver, British Columbia is questioning a Canadian government report that says there is minimal risk of pathogen transfer from farmed to wild salmon.

The comments come in the aftermath of the government’s announcement in late December that there is minimum risk to wild Fraser River sockeye salmon populations of transfer of IHNV (infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus) from Atlantic salmon farms in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands.

Stan Pronoszcz, science and campaign manager for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in Vancouver, BC, served on the federal Canadian science review committee that produced the report.

The Watershed Watch contends that the report is partially based on a secret memorandum of understanding between several salmon farming companies, information that was not made available for examination by committee members. Because of the lack of transparency, the Watershed Watch, Living Oceans Society and the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society are now calling the report’s conclusions into question.

They are asking for revamping of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s science review process, known as CSAS, or the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat. The scientific advice is supposed to inform policy and management options and decisions.

Watershed Watch said an imbalance in pro-industry representation could significantly affect the conclusions of the risk assessment report due to its qualitative nature, as opposed to using a more rigorous quantitative risk assessment.

Government spokespersons were not immediately available for comment. In a report issued from Ottawa on December 20, they said their research concluded that risks of the pathogens transferring from farmed Atlantic salmon to wild red salmon were minimal. The report said that current fish health management practices such as vaccination and eradication of infected fish helped to minimize the risk.