Media Release: Feds appear to cover-up inconvenient salmon lice science

Evidence presented at parliamentary fisheries committee today

Ottawa—Today, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) will hear evidence from Stan Proboszcz, senior scientist at Watershed Watch Salmon Society. According to Proboszcz, a new and unreported case study on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) suggests a cover-up of inconvenient science that shows sea lice harm wild sockeye salmon.

In 2012, a federal inquiry found that salmon farms in the Discovery Islands may pose a risk to wild sockeye salmon and should be removed by September 30, 2020, (or sooner if evidence arises) unless DFO can show they are of minimal risk.

On September 28, 2020, DFO held a press conference concluding that 9 pathogen risk assessments showed salmon farms pose minimal risk to sockeye salmon. Evidence pieced together by Proboszcz suggests DFO may have covered-up some of its own research that concludes sea lice can harm sockeye.

Proboszcz’s testimony and evidentiary documents, web pages and analysis to FOPO is detailed in a testimony document and includes the following:

  • Federal website references suggest DFO reduced the number of science risk assessments done on pathogens from 10 to 9 after inconvenient science concluded that sea lice harm wild sockeye. Subsequently, a DFO risk assessment was never done on sea lice.

  • A September 28, 2020 DFO media release directs Canadians and news reporters to a web page called “Scientific research on sea lice” for the agency’s substantiation of minimal risk of salmon farms conclusion. This page omits the inconvenient sea lice and sockeye research.

  • DFO’s substantiation web page “Scientific research on sea lice” describes an earlier project on sea lice and sockeye as if it is still in progress and includes no findings. However, the findings were published in a science journal in 2013. This published study also reports significant harm to wild sockeye from sea lice.

  • A 2018 ATIP (filed by biologist Alexandra Morton) includes a statement of concern from a DFO veterinarian about the lack of information sharing in DFO regarding sockeye and their high level of susceptibility to sea lice.

  • A 2020 ATIP (filed by Alexandra Morton) includes questions from a news reporter to DFO asking for DFO’s substantiation for minimal risk around sea lice. Six senior DFO Ottawa staff and the DFO Pacific Regional Director approve DFO’s answers to the reporter. When asked about the substantiation for DFO’s conclusion of minimal risk relative to sea lice, DFO provides website links that omit the inconvenient sea lice and sockeye research.

“This case study highlights a dysfunctional federal agency captured by the salmon farming industry,” says Proboszcz. “An at-arms-length-from-DFO investigation is needed, examining industry salmon farming influence on DFO. Given this suppressed science and DFO’s shoddy risk assessments, B.C. salmon farm licences should not be renewed when they expire on June 30, 2020.”

“Given DFO lab studies published in 2019 conclude sea lice have severe impacts on wild sockeye health, and an abundance of research concludes salmon farms amplify sea lice and spread them to wild salmon, the Discovery Islands salmon farms should remain closed and their infrastructure should be removed immediately.”



Stan Proboszcz, Senior Scientist, Watershed Watch Salmon Society

604 314 2713



Proboszcz’s testimony document:

FOPO meeting details:

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