All posts by salmonfarmscience

It seems that only poor, agenda-driven science attacking salmon farms gets mass media attention. We will show there is a lot more to the story, and the science.

Can you bang a drum? Dial-a-protester needs you!

While reviewing video from a recent farmed salmon protest in the Lower Mainland last week (published on Jan. 26), we noticed a couple curious things.

For one thing, the “science” spouted by the personalities in the clip is total nonsense, urban legends and old wives’ tales crafted to scare people. There’s no evidence for anything they say.

That’s not the curious part, that’s just normal for this crowd. The curious part was that no shoppers were listening. Maybe they don’t like people banging drums and shouting at them for some reason.

The other curious thing was the appearance of one particular individual, Audrey Siegl, who also appeared in another video published this week.

Audrey Siegel protests farmed salmon at Costco in Vancouver Jan. 24.
Audrey Siegl protests farmed salmon at Costco in Vancouver Jan. 24.
Audrey Siegl helps disrupt a private dinner party for Vancouver Wharves employees on Jan. 24.
Audrey Siegl helps disrupt a private dinner party in North Vancouver for Vancouver Wharves employees on Jan. 24.

It was a busy day for Ms. Siegl! Protesting farmed salmon in the afternoon, then crashing the wrong dinner party to protest pipelines in the evening!

Guess the motto “have drum, will travel” is taken seriously by this group.

One key to preserving our planet will be eating more farmed seafood, less pork and beef

US seafood consumption

“If 3 billion people move up into the middle class between now and 2050 and they are eating primarily beef and pork, the planet is going to be in a lot of trouble. The growing middle class should be eating seafood, rather than terrestrial animals. Aquaculture provides a clear way to scale and meet these growing demands.”

That’s one of the many excellent points in favour of aquaculture in a white paper prepared for the upcoming SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans next month.

The paper, titled “Aquaculture’s Prominent Role in Feeding a Growing Global Population,” was written by two heavy-hitters involved in aquaculture and seafood research: Dr. Michael Tlusty, director of Ocean Sustainability Science at the New England Aquarium, and Neil Sims, co-founder of Kampachi Farms LLC.

Reputation

The paper points out that aquaculture has suffered a bad rap in the past but people need to take another look.

“Aquaculture today is far different than it was 30 years ago because there is better rule setting and environmental monitoring,” the paper states.

Farms depend on clean environment

And the paper reminds us all that many fish farmers depend on a healthy environment — it’s in their best interests to keep the ocean environment clean, despite the claims of anti-aquaculture activists that net pens pollute and promote disease.

“In many cases, aquaculture involves farming species that haven’t been domesticated. They are inextricably linked to their environment, which is why we must pay such close attention to that environment. Because when we start tipping that balance towards too much production, the farms will lose money because they will lose animals. This also leads to environmental impact.”

Read the whole paper by registering at Seafood Source.

Alternatively, download it here.

Recycling your old iPhones… with salmon semen

This story was too weird to pass up:

“Japanese scientists have discovered that salmon semen from industrial fish farms could help to recycle rare earth metals.

Researchers led by Yoshio Takahashi from the University of Tokyo, found that salmon semen, known as milt, can be used in a process to extract certain rare earth elements that are used in products such as catalysts, alloys, magnets, optics, lasers and notably mobile phones.”

Only from Japan: salmon semen can help recycle electronics. Apparently.
Only from Japan: salmon semen can help recycle electronics. Apparently.

Apparently the semen, known as milt, “has the capacity to bind to positively charged ion material” making it a potential replacement for many caustic and dangerous chemicals currently used in the electronics recycling process.

The craziest part about this story is that there is a huge source of material available.

According to the paper, “More than 10,000 tonnes per year of milt from salmon, trout and others have been discarded as industrial wastes from fishery industries in Hokkaido, Japan.”

Again that’s

10,000 TONNES OF SALMON SEMEN.

BC salmon farms only raise about 70,000 tonnes of fish per year. There’s no way that there’s that much milt being used, let alone discarded, in BC. Japan doesn’t farm salmon on any significant scale, certainly not enough to produce that much milt.

This milt must be leftover from Japan’s massive “salmon ranching” aquaculture enhancement projects, which release more than 1 billion Pacific salmon from Hokkaido Island (referred to in this study) each year.

Kokanee salmon infected with IHN virus in BC, Montana

kokanee_in_stream

Kokanee salmon are a type of sockeye salmon that do not have an ocean phase in their lifecycle.

They were introduced to Montana in 1914 as an exotic species for fishing. Since then, they have become widespread in the western part of the state.

But now a fish virus common in native sockeye and kokanee populations in BC has made it to Montana, too.

Boaters are being asked to clean and disinfect their boats and equipment when they travel between lakes, but that almost never works. Looks like Montana is stuck with IHN.

So far it hasn’t caused any problems, but the virus can be a problem in dense populations of salmon, such as in a hatchery or a salmon farm. Trout farmers in Idaho have struggled with it for years.

The virus is carried by sockeye up and down the west coast of North America, and its prevalence waxes and wanes with little discernible pattern.

What’s interesting about this article is that it makes reference to the APEX IHN vaccine and states that this vaccine is not approved for use in the USA.

Guess that means none of the salmon farms in Washington State are vaccinating against IHN?

All BC companies have been using the vaccine since 2012, when IHN was detected in three farms. The companies quickly culled all fish on those farms before the virus could spread, and strict biosecurity protocols were implemented until the winter.

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.

Avian flu outbreak in Fraser Valley threatens Christmas turkey supply, but where are the compensation critics?

Several years ago, two BC salmon farming companies experienced outbreaks of disease which resulted in the cull of all fish at three farm sites.

The outrage from the usual small group of anti-salmon farming clicktivists resulted in several news stories and blog posts condemning the CFIA’s policy of compensation for farmers who are ordered to destroy their stock.

This month, avian flu has once again hit poultry farms in the Fraser Valley, the second time in a decade, but there is not a peep from the “Wild Salmon Warriors.”

This group is happy to hitch its star to issues about pipelines, mine spills and whatever their Illustrious Leader posts about. Oh, they’ll bring the outrage, you better believe it, prompting some of the laziest journalists in BC to include their perspectives in the name of false balance.

But avian flu? Forget about it.

Unless you live in the Fraser Valley, you probably don’t even know that hundreds of thousands of birds are being destroyed, and that farmers will rightly be compensated for it.

Because that’s the law. It’s the Health of Animals Act.

It’s intended to encourage farmers to report serious outbreaks of illnesses, and it works.

As salmon farmers, our sympathies are with the poultry farmers and hope that this is resolved quickly, with minimal loss of livestock.

And for all those who complain about compensation, yet have the audacity to ask for lower taxes, welfare, higher minimum wages, better benefits and a massive infrastructure so you can drive to Starbucks? Give yourself a reality check. Your precious opinions are just that: opinions. If you can’t admit to yourself that they might be wrong, they’re not worth anything in the first place.