Transcript: December 16, 2011 Hearing Transcript

Summary: The Cohen Commission continued its second of three days of hearings to examine the issue of ISAv in the Pacific. Nellie Gagné and Dr. Fred Kibenge made up the morning panel.

Issues that were discussed included:

  • The 2004 draft Molly Kibenge paper on disease research conducted in Dr. Simon Jones’ DFO lab at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo was discussed. The draft paper reported positive tests for an ISAv segment in wild salmon and in Atlantic salmon samples from 2002 and 2003.
  • Tests conducted on farm fish in BC by Dr. Miller included some positives. Nellie Gagné and Dr. Kibenge both agreed more examination of the Creative Salmon farm positive ISAv results are needed.
  • ISAv is a potential source of cross-contamination; furthermore, it makes distinguishing between true positives and contamination with positive control difficult.
  • In Dr. Kibenge’s opinion there was no cross-contamination in his lab in regards to the positive tests of ISAv in wild BC salmon.
  • Ms. Gagné’s DFO lab in Moncton has never tested sockeye tissue before.
  • Ms. Gagné admitted that her lab had a positive signal for ISAv in sockeye, but that it could have been the result of a technical error.
  • It was discussed whether or not a joint public statement published by DFO and CFIA about ISAv testing results on November 9, 2011 and other statements from the CFIA, and federal fisheries minister (December 2, 2011), were misleading.
  • A BC Salmon Farmers Association public statement about previous positive tests for ISAv being false is an incorrect statement in the opinion of Ms. Gagné.
  • Since Dr. Kibenge first reported positive tests for ISAv, he admitted that he has been “attacked” and believed that if he reported negative results no attacks on his credibility would have likely occurred.
  • DFO knew about potential positives of ISAv as early as 2004 but subsequent wild fish health surveillance plans for 2007-2008 for the Pacific Region did not include follow-up testing for ISAv.
  • Dr. Kibenge agreed with a recommendation made by Conveners from an SFU think tank on disease in which an independent entity from government should be established to direct independent fisheries research.
  • Dr. Kibenge made a number of recommendations regarding the positive tests for ISAv found in BC wild salmon:
    • different labs in Canada should work together to gain more knowledge about the potential existence of ISAv in BC rather than the discrediting tactics that have occurred to date;
    • much of the work on ISAv has been founded on research conducted on farmed salmon, experimental infection work should be underway to look at ISAv in wild salmon to better understand infection detection and virus dynamics;
    • establish a Canada Research Chair to examine disease in wild fish, possibly for Dr. Miller.
  • In retrospect, Dr. Kibenge got the sense the intention of an inspection of his lab after he reported positive ISAv tests by the CFIA was generally to confirm already published CFIA hypothesizes in the media rather than to conduct an objective inspection.
  • 100% of 64 samples of Cultus Lake sockeye from 2002-2003 tested positive in Fisheries and Oceans Canada research conducted in Dr. Simon Jones’ lab for ISAv segment 8. Despite this, it appears no significant follow-up research was done even though this stock is listed as endangered.
  • Dr. Kibenge’s lab charges $45 per ISAv test and they don’t discriminate who they take samples from.


Dr. Simon Jones, Dr. Kim Klotins, Dr. Stephen Stephen and Dr. Peter Wright made up the afternoon panel and discussions included:

  • The CFIA is the lead agency responsible for the Animal Health Act, import controls, export health certification, risk assessments and surveillance regarding animal diseases. DFO is responsible for the diagnostic testing for viruses in support of the CFIA.
  • How the CFIA defines a suspected case of ISAv may be subjective.
  • An email from Kim Klotins to Con Kiley (CFIA) said, “Dr. Kibenge did test the fish submitted by A. Morton. I believe we must check those samples for integrity. I’m thinking we should also advise all labs in Canada to not test any more samples of wild finfish for ISAv from the Pacific Ocean (Canada and US).” Dr. Klotins affirmed that the intention of this email was not to prevent further testing of ISAv in Canada.
  • Dr. Klotins stated that the CFIA would not be able to confirm the initial positive test results for ISAv because of chain of custody concerns.
  • It was discussed whether the risk of the CFIA confiscating a researcher’s samples was a disincentive to certain scientists involved in testing for viruses such as ISAv in wild fish.
  • Dr. Stephen Stephen confirmed that he suggested to Dr. Miller that perhaps she should defer her ISAv testing until the CFIA confirms previous testing.
  • Dr. Stephen Stephen admitted he has control over certain aspects of Dr. Miller’s funding for molecular genomics; however, he also recently reported that she received over 450 thousand dollars for her research over the next 3 years.
  • In reference to a public telephone press conference, Joseph Beres—an inspection manager from the CFIA—wrote an email congratulating the CFIA and DFO staff on the call that fielded questions from the public and media. The email was titled, “The Early Bird. Nov 9, 2011,” and included:
    • “Con [Kiley, CFIA], It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour, – and this is a because of the very successful performance of our spokespeople at the Tech Briefing yesterday, – you, Stephen [Stephen, DFO], Peter [Wright, DFO] and Paul were a terrific team, indeed. Congratulations! One battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and will win the war, also. Cheers Joe.”
  • The fact that DFO Moncton’s lab was inspected by some internal staff in contrast to the fact that Dr. Kibenge’s lab was inspected by external staff, along with the fact that Dr. Kibenge’s lab was criticized more rigorously, seemed to imply a conflict of interest in the CFIA’s actions. When questioned, Dr. Klotins was unable to completely refute this proposed implication.
  • Simon Jones did not consider his 2004 “negative” results for ISAv in wild salmon to be relevant to the Commission’s objectives when he testified earlier; hence, he did not provide his previous 2004 research documents to the inquiry, which included some potential positive test results for an ISAv segment in wild BC salmon.


Witnesses – Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv):

  • Nellie Gagné – Molecular Biology Scientist and Laboratory Supervisor, DFO, Moncton
  • Dr. Fred Kibenge – Chairman, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island
  • Dr. Simon Jones – Research Scientist, DFO
  • Dr. Kim Klotins – Acting National Manager, Disease Control Contingency Planning, Aquatic Animal Health Division, CFIA, Ottawa
  • Dr. Stephen Stephen – Director Biotechnology and Aquatic Animal Health Sciences Branch, DFO, Ottawa
  • Dr. Peter Wright – National Manager, National Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory System, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Moncton


See evidentiary documents page for a listing of key exhibits discussed at the hearings.

News Coverage resulting from December 16th Cohen hearings: List is updated as additional media is published.

  • The Province; December 18, 2011; “Last day of hearings on B.C. dwindling salmon stocks to focus on deadly virus”
  • Globe and Mail; December 16, 2011; “Federal agency accused of intimidation over salmon disease”