At the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Fraser sockeye fishery, Greg McDade’s cross-examination of Dr. Laura Richards (DFO Regional Director of Science in the Pacific Region) revealed that DFO has been stifling information on diseases borne out of aquaculture sites. That the DFO is acting like a public-relations office for the fish-farm industry is outrageous if not a surprise to many citizens, and the Globe and Mail’s Mark Hume covered the revelation in an article this spring. Here’s an excerpt:
“Earlier this month, the Cohen Commission of Inquiry Into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, saw an e-mail by Dr. [Kristi] Miller in which she complained about being kept away from a workshop because her DFO masters “fear that we will not be able to control the way the disease issue could be construed in the press.”
Dr. Miller, who suspects a virus is killing millions of sockeye salmon in the river, had a paper published in the prestigious journal Science earlier this year. But she has not been allowed to talk to the press about it.
“By preventing Dr. Miller from speaking to the media and from participating in non-DFO controlled meetings/workshops, DFO is inhibiting science,” Mr. Hutchings said in his e-mail. “This action, so evidently lacking in openness and transparency, is regrettably consistent with the objective of controlling the information that public servants are permitted to disseminate to the public.”
Dr. Miller’s situation also inspired Alan Sinclair, a retired DFO scientist, to write to Mark Hume: “Your recent article reporting that DFO put a gag order on Dr. Kristi Miller’s research on disease in sockeye salmon is very disturbing. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is all too common in DFO and other Federal Ministries with large science components. I encourage you to follow up on this and make Canadians more aware of what’s going on.’”
The full transcript of this particular cross-examination is on the Cohen Commission website.
In other Cohen Commission news, the deadline for the final report has been extended to June 30, 2012. This means a long wait for any meaningful analysis of the effect of salmon farms on Fraser sockeye and other wild fish.