DFO Minister Gail Shea: There has NOT been a coast-wide collapse across all Pacific salmon species

See blog for further information:   http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/

Dear Minister Shea:
On August 26 you sent duplicate letters to many people dismissing the impact of salmon farms on British Columbia. I can only imagine the response to collapse of the world’s largest sockeye salmon river, the Fraser River, has come directly from Ottawa. Your letter provides stark insight into the Federal Conservative government’s course of action.
With an entire ministry at your disposal you told the public:
 “The coastwide scope of the decline that has occurred across all Pacific salmon species suggests that this decline is associated with much larger ecological events than localized salmon farming.”
This is entirely inaccurate as there has NOT been a coast-wide collapse across all Pacific salmon species, quite to the contrary. The people of British Columbia are looking at a bull’s-eye collapse pattern with good returns all around the dead center – which is our extremely valuable Fraser River sockeye.
Really interesting – even within the Fraser River, the Harrison sockeye, which scientists report migrate to sea via fish farm-free Strait of Juan de Fuca, are returning at twice the DFO forecast.   
The missing Fraser River sockeye salmon were observed as smolts by DFO as they migrated in the river. They were abundant and large. They entered the sea in late spring 2007, turned north into a heavily industrialized salmon farming area, where I examined some of them as they were being infested with sea lice and then they disappeared. These are the only sockeye that collapsed to less than 10% of forecast.
While you are telling the public all salmon species collapsed coast-wide, your highest-ranking BC official is publishing letters in newspapers also telling us that fish farms are not responsible for the collapse because the lice species I and others counted on the young sockeye in 2007 are not found on farm fish.  First of all, there were two species of lice on the sockeye smolts, the large salmon louse and the smaller Caligus. Second, the fish farm company on the Fraser sockeye migration route, Marine Harvest, frequently reports Caligus in their website data. Specifically they report 16.5 Caligus per fish for a total of 8 million breeding on the Cyrus Rocks farm early this July as our newest sockeye generation was passing that farm. Because Caligus frequently jump fish to fish this species is also a strong potential disease vector.

As he exonerates fish farms, he goes on to say he will work with First Nations and other fishermen to conserve sockeye.  Minster Shea, you closed this fishery at the beginning of the season there has been extremely little fishing on this stock of sockeye.  Your Ministry has absolutely no valid scientific or legal reason to omit fish farmers from the investigation and ensuing action to protect the Fraser sockeye.  
You also wrote that DFO has “taken significant action…” by “monitoring” farm lice and doing “ocean circulation studies.”  These are studies, not “significant action.” Your letter tells people you can’t protect our salmon with closed-containment farms until this is “practical and realistic” for the fish farmers with head offices in Oslo, Norway. Minister Shea, you work for the people of Canada. Your primary mandate is protection of our wild salmon and whatever else is going on in your office no one has rescinded this mandate yet.
History is clearly repeating itself. In 1997, DFO scientists reported that the collapse of Canada’s North Atlantic cod stocks, one of earth’s greatest human food supplies, was because DFO ignored the science, misinformed the public, offered plausible but inaccurate theories, reprimanded scientists who spoke freely and took no action(1). No one in DFO was held accountable when Canadians lost this vast resource. Here in 2009, I would argue you and your department are ignoring the science, misinforming the public, offering plausible but unconfirmed theories and taking no action on a highly documented and obvious factor that reoccurs worldwide wherever there are salmon farms(2). You must be held accountable or it is clear from experience where this is heading.
The Fraser sockeye contribute far more to the economy and employment than salmon farms and they transport ocean nutrients into much of this Province feeding the trees that produce oxygen, remove carbon and help stabilize our climate. An enormous number of British Columbians live in the Fraser watershed and are breathing oxygen produced by salmon fed trees. These are planetary systems we literally cannot live without. First Nation women have written me in anger and anxiety at loosing an essential part of their diet.
The very concept of farming salmon in net pens is unconstitutional in Canada because it attempts to privatize ocean spaces and own schools of salmon in the ocean. The industry appears in violation of many sections of the Fisheries Act.  It breaks the natural laws of wild salmon, which never remain stationary. Your record of fish farm defense includes a recent assertion that the industry’s by-catch of wild fish is not a “significant problem.”  And you refuse to acknowledge the science and act on the information that the fish farm viral ISA pandemic is spreading in imported salmon eggs(3).
Reading the outpouring of articles, letters to editors, emails to me and the 17,000 signatures thus far on my letter to you asking simply that you enforce the Fisheries Act on salmon farms I don’t think western Canada is ready to loose their fish like eastern Canada. The actions required are simple:

  1. Within your investigation on the fate of our sockeye, require full disclosure of the health and stocking of every salmon farm in BC from 1986 – present and run analysis against health records in enhancement facilities near and distant from salmon farms, including the 2007 salmon farms from Campbell River to Port Hardy.
  2. Close the fish farm fishery on the Fraser migration route just as you have closed commercial and sport fishing.
  3. Apply the Canadian Fisheries Act to fish farms and start laying charges for violations.
  4. Support the Canadian fish farmers who want to reinvent their industry on land, with an eye to siting these facilities in job-starved towns
  5. Ensure that marketing of both farmed and wild salmon is maximized to benefit us all, instead of driving down the price of both
  6. Remove your science branch from the political DFO body and reinstate the Fisheries Research Board  – which was a cutting edge, world class, Canadian, scientific powerhouse. Start using, instead of muzzling, your scientists.
  7. Form local area management councils compromised of the people who depend on wild salmon and understand the complexities of their regions.
  8. Apply the phenomenal wealth of science now available to harness the salmon’s own remarkably successful biology to restore our runs.

If you won’t take these steps please resign along with your Pacific Region senior staff and make way for people who will honor Fisheries and Ocean’s contract with the public of Canada, present and future generations, to protect our salmon.  The enormous pink salmon return this year – fish that were allowed to go to sea without farm lice, is a clear statement by the fish themselves that British Columbia can have abundant wild salmon, even running through the biggest city in our Province, Vancouver,  City of the Salmon
Wild salmon are a gift on a magnitude far greater than any oil well, river power project or the few jobs from a Norwegian industry that imports fish from the south Pacific, throws them in our ocean and pulls out less fish.
Read the list of 17,000 people and counting who have signed my letter http://www.adopt-a-fry.org <http://www.adopt-a-fry.org>  asking that you apply the laws of Canada to salmon farms. They are First Nation chiefs, business people, politicians, entertainers, environmentalists, stream keepers, they are the people of British Columbia, not a fringe group you can brush aside.  Minster Shea, you have failed us in your response to the collapse of earth’s largest sockeye salmon run and this is not alright with British Columbia.
Alexandra Morton, R.P. Bio
Echo Bay, BC  http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/
1 Hutchings, J.A., Walters, C. and Haedrich, R.L. 1997. Is Scientific Inquiry Incompatible with Government Information Control?  Canadian Journal of Aquatic Science. Vol 52.
2 Ford, J.S. and Myers, R.A. 2008 A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids. PLos Biology 6(2)
3 Vike, S., Nylund, S., and Nylund, A. 2008. ISA virus in Chile: evidence of vertical transmission. Archives of Virology. Vol. 154. (note: “vertical” means via eggs)
Hello All

Every time I send an email out to this list you ask what can you do.  I am sorry for so many emails, but time is of the essence.  As our wild salmon stocks suffer an enormous setback, the Minster of Fisheries is in Norway with a large delegation promoting Canada to the Norwegian fish farming industry. An organization called Pure Salmon (www.puresalmon.org) is there and will be delivering all 300 pages of our letter to Fisheries Minister Shea at the Aqua Nor tradeshow. Pure salmon has sent a letter to the King of Norway which I signed and have have pasted below.

Vancouver filmmaker Damien Gillis is showing this film in Norway asking them to stop killing our salmon.

When I was in Norway last spring it was clear that Norway has no idea how Canadians and Americans feel about their industry.  With our top Fisheries representative telling Norwegian fish farmers that Canada is open for business, this is not surprising.  There are 10,000 emails on this list. If you want to set the record straight yourself – here are the people in Norway to contact:

The royal palace of Norway: post@slottet.no

The Norwegian Fisheries Minister, Helga Pedersen: helga.pedersen@fkd.dep.no

The Norwegian Prime Minister’s: postmottak@smk.dep.no

Pure Salmon: lkaran@pewtrusts.org

Canadian Minister of Fisheries: Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

King Harald V
The Royal Palace
Drammensveien 1

14th August 2009

Your Royal Highness,

Protecting wild salmon from open net cage salmon farms

Further to our letter of 15th December 2006 (re-enclosed here), we appeal to you as the King of Norway to stop the killing of wild fish by Norwegian-owned open net cage salmon farms.  We ask that you take time during your visit to Trondheim on 18th August when you will be opening the Aqua Nor trade show
1 to watch the new film “Dear Norway – Help Save Canada’s Wild Salmon” produced by Damien Gillis.  

Your visit to the Trondheimsfjord area – one of only two fjords in Norway where salmon farming is completely banned under the Laksfjord regulations – represents an opportunity to hear how Norwegian companies are operating to lower standards in other regions.  We think it is important that Norwegians understand their impact on temperate coastal countries worldwide – especially in British Columbia where the Norwegian companies Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg control 92% of salmon farming production2 .  We expect a country such as Norway who signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 20073 and who published a white paper on Corporate Social Responsibility Abroad in 20094  to respect the rights of First Nations whose culture depends upon healthy wild salmon populations.  

Since our letter to you in 2006, the situation has deteriorated and the weight of scientific evidence linking open net cage salmon farms with declines in wild fish is now overwhelming5.  Canada’s largest wild salmon runs are failing every year while in neighbouring Alaska where salmon farming is banned they are harvesting record runs.  Another film by Damien Gillis – “Aquacultural Revolution: The scientific case for changing salmon farming”6 – presents the scientific perspective and is recommended viewing in advance of your trip to Trondheim.  You may also be interested in watching a sea lice animation recently released by Norges Jeger-og Fiskerforbund7.    

In May this year, the Pure Salmon Campaign brought a delegation of First Nation chiefs, scientists, wilderness tourism, labor union, fishing and environmental leaders from Chile, Canada, Ireland, Scotland and the United States to Norway to bear witness to the problems of Marine Harvest and Cermaq in particular8.   

You may have read Alexandra Morton’s passionate plea published in Bergens Tidende in May which ended with:

“It’s still not too late to stop the collapse of wild salmon and social decay here in western Canada. But to do so, it will take the efforts of concerned citizens working across borders, to make it clear to the Norwegian government that salmon farms must not destroy the wild salmon arteries flowing into the coast of British Columbia.  In today’s world such behavior is an act of inexcusable immorality as future generations will need life on earth to survive.     

And you may have read about our visit to Preline’s closed containment farm in Hardangerfjord10.  Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First Nation, who delivered letters to you in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and visited Norway again this year, said:

“It is difficult to put to words how I felt standing on an operating closed containment fish farm, watching Atlantic salmon swimming inside.  It was an amazing circumstance for me to speak with the owner of Preline who has developed the closed containment system, and both of us needing something to give hope for our individual yet intertwined dreams”11.  

Bergens Tidende also featured the Preline closed containment system in an article published in June12.  Representatives from Preline – together with other closed containment companies – will be in Trondheim for the AquaNor trade show and we encourage you to explore these technologies which can protect wild fish from the spread of sea lice and escapes from salmon farms.  

During his visit to Norway in May, Chief Robert Joseph of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council said:

“The demise of wild salmon is tantamount to genocide because it reflects the demise of our culture, way of life and spirituality.  Since the advent of salmon farming in our territories we have seen an apocalyptic decline in the state of our wild salmon stocks in the Broughton Archipelago.  And because Norway is the world leader in salmon farming and the Norwegian Government is the leading shareholder in Cermaq we are asking for their moral leadership to bring about best practices and to mitigate environmental degradation”13.

Public opposition to Norwegian-owned salmon farming companies operating in British Columbia is building with negative press coverage of ‘rapacious Norwegians’ in the international media1
4 as well as at home in Norway15.  You may be aware that this issue was raised in the Norwegian Parliament in May this year via a Parliamentary Question tabled by Heikki Holmås MP with a reply from Helga Pedersen, Norway’s Fisheries Minister16.  Public comments were also made in the Norwegian media by several MPs including Peter Gitmark from Hoyre17, Ola Borten Moe from Senterpartiet18 and Heikki Holmås from Sosialistisk Venstreparti19.

Cermaq – whose largest shareholder is the Norwegian Government – is now the subject of a complaint filed with the OECD in May by Norges Naturvernforbund and ForUM2
0.  In the same month, Norway was criticized by First Nations groups for failing to adhere to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with respect to Cermaq’s operations in Canada21.   In October 2008, Cermaq’s operations in Canada were criticized for blatantly violating their licences after years of over-production22.  And NRK reported only yesterday that Cermaq was encountering local opposition in Norway with a petition signed by 6,000 people objecting to expansion in Ofotfjorden23.  

Marine Harvest’s operations in Canada have also been subject of growing controversy and legal action in the B.C. Supreme Court24.  Grieg’s plans to expand in the Georgia Strait in British Columbia have angered local residents, fishermen and tourist operators alike25.  And in June, the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform called for the emergency closure of five farms operated by Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg to protect migrating wild salmon26.  The issue will only continue to heat up at the expense of Norway’s reputation.  

Nor is Canada the only region where Norwegian-owned companies are experiencing local opposition.  In Ireland, where Marine Harvest control over 50% of production, Salmon Watch recently filed a complaint with the European Commission contending that salmon farms are responsible for the generation of high levels of sea lice infestation in juvenile salmon migrating from rivers to their feeding grounds in the sea27.  And in the UK where Norwegian-owned companies control in excess of 80% of salmon farming production, the Salmon and Trout Association (whose patron is Prince Charles) have organized a petition calling on the Scottish Government to move salmon farms away from the estuaries of major rivers28.  

We hope that you agree with John Fredriksen, owner of Marine Harvest, who in July 2007 when he was fishing on the River Alta called for salmon farms to be moved out of the path of wild salmon29.  In September 2007, over 30 fishing and environmental groups including Norsk Lakseelver, the Norwegian Salmon Association, Granvin Fiskarlag and Nausta Vernegruppa, wrote to Marine Harvest urging them to follow Mr Fredriksen’s wise advice30.   

As both the King of Norway and a wild salmon angler on the River Alta yourself31, Your Royal Highness surely has an interest in protecting wild salmon both in Norway and internationally as well as preserving Norway’s international reputation.   The 2010 Winter Olympics will be held along the shores of the Fraser River where the wild sockeye salmon that run past Norwegian-owned fish farms have been closed to fishing again this year.  Yesterday’s Globe & Mail newspaper in Canada reports that “the Fraser River is experiencing one of the biggest salmon disasters in recent history with more than nine million sockeye vanishing”32 with The Straight newspaper reporting that “fish farms could be a contributing factor”33.  Today’s Globe & Mail also featured the issue34.

When you meet with Marine Harvest, Cermaq, Grieg, the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, Helga Pedersen, the Canadian Fisheries Minister, Gail Shea, and Scotland’s Minister for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, during Aqua Nor we therefore encourage you to ask why Norwegian companies are still being allowed to kill wild fish not just in Norway but also in Canada, Scotland and Ireland.  And if you have time to view the new film “Dear Norway – Help Save Canada’s Wild Salmon” please come and visit the Pure Salmon Campaign at booth # B-111C at Aqua Nor to arrange a private viewing.  

Yours sincerely,

Bob Chamberlin, Chief of the Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First Nation and Chairman of the Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council, Canada

Alexandra Morton, Director of the Salmon Coast Field Station, Canada

David Suzuki, Executive Director of David Suzuki Foundation, Canada

Brian Gunn, President of the Wilderness Tourism Association of British Columbia, Canada

David Lane, Executive Director of the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, Canada

Damien Gillis, Save Our Rivers Society, Canada

Darren Blaney, Homalco First Nation, Canada

Geoff Meggs, Councillor, City of Vancouver, Canada

Valerie Langer, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Canada

Rafe Mair, Official spokesperson for Save Our Rivers Society, Canada

Shannon Ellis, Bella Coola Grizzly Tours, Canada

Steve Lawson, National Coordinator, First Nations Environmental Network, Canada

Des Nobels, Chair of Friends of Wild Salmon, Canada

Blake Covernton, President, Wild BC Salmon, Canada

Michael Price, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Canada

Evan Loveless, Executive Director of the Wilderness Tourism Association of British Columbia, Canada

Terry Anderson, Canadian Wild Salmon Alliance Society, Canada

Luanne Roth, Marine Director of the Prince Rupert Environmental Society, Canada

Geoff Senichenko, Research Director of the Wilderness Committee, Canada

Craig Orr, Executive Director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Canada

Stan Proboszcz, Fish Biologist, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Canada

Ruby Berry, Salmon Aquaculture Program Coordinator, Georgia Strait Alliance, Canada

Michelle Young, Salmon Aquaculture Campaigner, Georgia Strait Alliance, Canada

John Volpe, Professor, University of Victoria, Canada

Corey Peet, David Suzuki Foundation, Canada

Lawrence Dill, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Catherine Stewart, Salmon Farming Campaign Manager, Living Oceans, Canada

Kim Petersen, co-editor of Dissident Voice, Canada

Tiffany Hilman, Markets Campaigner, Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, Canada

Susanne Hare, Tofino citizen, Canada

Mat Lawson, B.C. citizen, Canada

Misty Lawson, B.C. citizen, Canada

Quoashinis Lawson, B.C. citizen, Canada

Oren Lawson, B.C. citizen, Canada

Peter Dimitrov, lawyer and concerned citizen, Canada

Kevin Bruce, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Canada

Tom Rivest, Great Bear Nature Tours, Canada

Leonard Ellis, Bella Coola Grizzly Tours, Canada

Vegard Heggem, wild salmon conservationist, Norway

Geir Kjensmo, Chairman of the Norwegian Salmon Association, Norway

Sondre Båtstrand, Spokesperson for the Norwegian Green Party, Norway

Frode Strønen, Marine Spokesperson for the Norwegian Green Party, Norway

Lawson Devery, Scottish Field Officer, the Salmon and Trout Association, Scotland

Bruce Sandison, Scottish Sporting Services, Scotland

Colin Kirkpatrick, Environment Committee Chairman, Orkney Trout Fishing Association, Scotland

Brian Fraser, ghillie from Wester Ross, Scotland

Fiona Cameron, Sea Trout Group, Scotland

Frank Buckley, Society for the Protection of Salmon and Sea Trout, Scotland

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Writer on wild salmon conservation issues, Scotland

Jenny Scobie, Rhidorroch Estate, Scotland

Niall Greene, Chair, Salmon Watch Ireland, Ireland

John Mulcahy, Save The Swilly, Ireland

Noel Carr, Secretary, Conaidhm na Slat Iascairi Bradan & Breac Geal (Federation of Irish Salmon & Sea Trout Anglers), Ireland

Bill Bakke, Executive Director, Native Fish Society, United States of America

Anne Mosness, Go Wild Campaign, United States of America

Neil Frazer, Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States of America

Bartlett Naylor, Capital Strategies Consulting Inc., United States of America

Don Staniford, Global Coordinator, The Pure Salmon Campaign, United States of America


Her Majesty The Queen

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

Crown Prince Haakon of Norway

Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway

Helga Pedersen, Fisheries Minister of Norway

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

Gail Shea, Fisheries Minister of Canada

Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia

Trevor Swerdfager, Director General, Aquaculture Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Jillian Stirk, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland

Roseanna Cunningham, Minister of the Environment for Scotland

Heikki Holmås, Member of the Norwegian Parliament

Ola Borten Moe, Member of the Norwegian Parliament

Peter Gitmark, Member of the Norwegian Parliament

Hallgeir Langeland, Member of the Norwegian Parliament

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