Transcript: September 7, 2011 Hearing Transcript

Summary: Today’s panel on “Perspectives on Aquaculture” offered very differing views on how aquaculture is regulated; how the science related to salmon aquaculture is interpreted, and which documents should be entered as exhibits (and therefore become public). The panel of witness was comprised of: Clare Backman (Marine Harvest Canada); Alexandra Morton (Raincoast Research Society); Mia Parker (formerly Grieg Seafood); and Catherine Stewart (Living Oceans Society).

Questioning of the Aquaculture Panel included conflicting perspectives on:

  • The mandate of DFO to both regulate and promote finfish aquaculture.
    • Alexandra Morton and Catherine Stewart related that the mandate to both regulate and promote aquaculture are in “fundamental conflict.”
    • Clare Backman and Mia Parker related that this was not a conflict but the normal process in commercial fisheries.
  • DFO’s performance now that it is the regulator of aquaculture.
    • Clare Backman and Mia Parker expressed that there is now increased efficiency and transparency.
    • All witnesses agreed that DFO needs to publish more science.
    • Concerns expressed by Catherine Stewart and Alexandra Morton included:
      • Gaps in the regulatory process that include how the release of deleterious substances and introduction of exotic pathogens are regulated;
      • Government scientists needing to be released from political mandates; and
      • That fish health regulations are sufficient to ensure the health of farmed fish but not wild fish.
  • The sufficiency of farm siting criteria and methods of disease control to protect wild salmon.
    • Clare Backman testified to the sufficiency of practices e.g. surveys done so that farms are not sited within 1 km of salmon bearing streams; and volunteering to take on extra surveillance to ensure ISAv is not brought in via eyed eggs;
    • With regard to fish pathologist notations in referencing marine anemia being at the Conville Bay (Marine Harvest) site in 2006/2007, Clare Backman testified that the mortality was due to Spring die-off due to smolt entry and Fall die-off due to algae blooms; that the notation of symptoms does not mean the diagnosis of disease.
  • The relationship between First Nations and Marine Harvest and the socio-economic benefits from finfish aquaculture to First Nations.
  • The “conflicting” science on the impacts of open net-pen salmon farming and attempts to reach consensus and work collaboratively with industry:
    • Mia Parker expressed that the conflicting science (e.g. on the impacts of sea lice) is the natural course of good science i.e. gravitating towards the weight of evidence comes from diverse discourse;
    • Alexandra Morton expressed that science that does not serve the promotion of fish farming is ignored. Sea lice are endemic but not for juvenile salmon weighing less than 1 gram that don’t have scales; that the farms provide the potential to amplify local and endemic pathogens and exotic diseases.
    • Catherine Stewart expressed that the intent of the Coastal Alliance of Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) was to agree on the construct of science and the outcomes of the science but that progress has been “glacial”; that there is a “pale of discouragement” within CAAR; and that there has been “mastery of the art of foot-dragging” in the collaboration with industry.
  • The potential of closed containment Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology.
    • Clare Backman discussed how Marine Harvest had planned a pilot project but that technological challenges would lead to it being debatable that a profit can be made.
  • Whether the document by Alexandra Morton prepared for the Aquaculture Coalition, entitled “What is happening to the Fraser sockeye – Based largely on documents submitted to the Cohen Commission, should be entered into evidence as an exhibit (and thereby be public). Objection was made by Canada, the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) and the Province. Objection by the BCSFA included stating that the entry of the document would be in breach of the Registered Profession Biologist (RPBio) code of ethics. Judgment has been suspended until Justice Cohen has read the document and considered Counsel comments about it. The document pieces together information from the “Ringtail” database (documents made available to the Counsels for the Cohen Inquiry that are confidential unless accepted as evidentiary documents at the Inquiry) to build the “perspective” of how the disease identified by the genetic signature found by Dr. Kristi Miller may have played a role in the decline of the Fraser River sockeye.
  • Whether the conditions of aquaculture licenses allow for sufficient reporting of fish health events.


Witnesses – Aquaculture:

  • Clare Backman – Director of Environmental Compliance and Community Relations, Marine Harvest Canada
  • Alexandra Morton – Executive Director, Raincoast Research Society
  • Mia Parker – formerly Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Grieg Seafood BC Ltd.
  • Catherine Stewart – Salmon Farming Campaign Manager, Living Oceans Society

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

News Coverage resulting from August 26th Cohen hearings: List is updated as additional media is published.

  • Globe and Mail; September 7, 2011; “Cohen Inquiry debates DFO’s ability to regulate and promote salmon”
  • Campbell River Mirror; September 7, 2011; “Fish farm foe challenged at salmon probe”
  • APTN National News (includes video); September 8, 2011; “Conflicting science muddies Cohen Commission waters”