In 1894 a French army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island prison.
In 1896 a Paris journalist, Emile Zola, printed an article called “J’Accuse!”, which tore apart the case and led eventually to his pardon – which he accepted because he was dying on the vicious tropical Devil’s Island – and he was exonerated to serve, gallantly though sick and old in combat in World War I. An Alsatian Jew, Dreyfus was seen by the military establishment.
Last Monday night, along with 200 others, I listened to Alexandra Morton outline the loss of our salmon and carefully and surgically weave together the case against the fish farm industry, the provincial government and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The case goes back 12 years and mirrors the Campbell/Clark administration.
First it involved escapees from fish farms crowding native salmon on their spawning grounds, something that continues but became less relevant as Alexandra discovered that hundreds of thousands of wild salmon smolts were being slaughtered by lice from fish farms sited on their migration routes. Lately Alexandra has concentrated on diseases imported into our waters by farmed fish.
J’accuse both senior governments of deliberately avoiding this issue.
Before going further let me stress a fact that is of great importance but overlooked.
When I started helping Alex, my veterinarian, the estimable Moe Milstein, took me aside and said “Rafe, I don’t know anything about that particular issue but I can tell you that when you take huge numbers of animals and coop them up, disease on a massive basis is inevitable.”
From the outset, Alex was stonewalled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and by the provincial Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
Study after study was produced, all being peer-reviewed in prominent scientific journals, yet Alex was pilloried and threatened with jail.
World class ocean scientists everywhere praised her work and supported her scientific methodology. She continued to be harassed and insulted by government and industry alike.
As Alex presents her case on disease in fish farms and the impact on wild salmon you begin to wonder – isn’t this where DFO steps in?
As she moves on – surely the DFO gets involved now!
But the presentation proceeded to stunningly make the case that these diseased fish farms are slaughtering entire runs of wild salmon, but nary a move by the DFO, the federal Environment Department, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture or Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource (which now controls tenures for fish farms).
It’s worse than mere neglect – while all this is going on, not only does DFO stand idly by but the Minister is globe-trotting, flogging farmed salmon in potential markets. The provincial Agricultural Ministry, rather than pulling licenses, is considering granting new ones!
J’accuse the fish farm industry of deliberately destroying millions of Pacific salmon with their Atlantics. They have hidden their documents, dissembled at every turn, admitted that their farms ought not to be sited near migration paths while expanding their operations and markets.
J’accuse the Province of ignoring worldwide science while renewing fish farm licenses and issuing new ones.
J’accuse the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of gross neglect of its statutory mandate to protect Pacific Salmon and, quite to the contrary, shilling for industry.
J’accuse the DFO of wilfully ignoring (or worse) the ever increasing scientific evidence of fish farms infecting large runs of wild salmon.
J’accuse every federal fisheries minister since 2001 of gross neglect of his/her duty to care for the wild pacific salmon. J’accuse these ministers of forcing DFO scientists to make political decisions paramount over scientific evidence.
J’accuse the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Province of avoiding inspection of fish farms, which would have, without question, led to prosecutions.
J’accuse DFO, under political orders, of suppressing evidence and muzzling DFO scientists.
J’accuse the mainstream media of abdicating its responsibility to hold the governments they cover accountable and indeed looking for all the world as if they were promoting fish farms.
J’accuse both senior governments of failing to apply the Precautionary Principle, which would require fish farms to demonstrate they would not harm the wild salmon, instead of forcing those who care for the environment to establish their case against the farms.
This is a huge issue – in fact it goes to the root of the matter.
The Precautionary Principle is embedded in Canadian law and is sanctioned by the UN. Why shouldn’t industry be required to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that what they will do will not harm the environment?
Why should Alexandra Morton, who as a result of her decades-long fight is in straitened circumstances, be required to fund the research and carry the burden of proof?
We are fools on an international scale. Those countries which have had experience with fish farms, namely Norway, the UK and Ireland, see us as idiots.
A few years ago I was a guest of Dr. Patrick Gargan, a world renowned fish biologist who has consistently verified Alex’s work, in Galway, Ireland, where he has his laboratory. Wendy and I were guests in his lab, and his senior technician, on learning I was from BC asked, succinctly, “Can’t you fucking well read out in Canada? Don’t you know what’s happened in Norway, Scotland and here in Ireland?”
Alexandra Morton is a hero and should be recognized as such throughout the nation – a nation that gives Orders of Canada to crooks while trying to put her in jail.
I’ve known Alex for over a decade and see the tremendous personal sacrifice she has made, to say nothing of the huge financial sacrifice.
Every step of the way – from escapees to sea lice to disease – she has been hassled, slandered, insulted and ignored.
Every step of the way she’s been proved right.
We are left, right now, with the two senior governments, especially Ottawa, still in denial and with Alexandra Morton doing all the work they should be doing and paying out enormous amounts for the research DFO should be doing.
All the while, the mainstream media ignores these issues while giving the Fish Farmers ample opportunity to attack Alex’s credibility.
This gallant lady who came to the Broughton Archipelago to study whales, became dedicated to saving wild salmon – and her thanks has been shit and abuse from the authorities.