On May 27, 2022, nine scientists with ties to the salmon farming industry published an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail titled “In defence of Canada’s peer-reviewed science advisory process on salmon farming.” The piece vaguely criticized several other scientists who recently provided testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (known as FOPO). The committee of elected MPs is currently investigating science at the department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), including DFO’s in-house science peer-review process known as CSAS, science within DFO and how science is used to provide advice for management decisions and to inform the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Our Senior Scientist, Stan Proboszcz, was asked to testify on May 12, 2022. His testimony and substantiating evidence describe an unreported suppression of science by DFO to protect the salmon farming industry. Other expert scientists also testified raising concerns with DFO science and CSAS.
Several of those concerns focused on the recent CSAS series of studies that attempted to evaluate the risk of salmon farms to wild sockeye salmon. The scientists’ concerns included:
- the lack of a risk assessment focused on parasitic sea lice;
- the lack of a risk assessment looking at the cumulative effects of all salmon farming pathogens on sockeye salmon;
- the conclusions of minimal risk of salmon farms to wild sockeye salmon do not reflect the current state of knowledge; and
- the risk assessments were neither unbiased nor independent.
Given the large body of scientific evidence concluding salmon farms pose a significant risk to wild salmon, and our decades of experience working on this issue, we know those that support or shield the salmon farming industry more often than not usually have ties to it. Below, we take a quick look at these nine scientists and their connections to the salmon farming industry including co-authorship, funding and work relationships. Some research projects they were connected to were funded by programs geared to benefit the salmon farming industry (e.g., ACRDP top goal is to “Improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian aquaculture industry”).
Based on their publication and employment histories, and the opinion piece, they could be perceived to have a pro-salmon farming industry bias. Moreover, they appear to have little research experience in ecology, which is an important area of expertise needed to understand the well-documented risk that open-net salmon farming has on wild salmon, the subject of the CSAS risk assessment series in question.
Opinion authors’ connections to the salmon farming industry
- Dr. Tony Farrell, University of British Columbia
- Several authors including Dr. Farrell published a salmon farming science paper in 2019 and did not explicitly mention it was partly funded by the salmon farming industry. This violated the journal’s conflict of interest policy and we requested the paper be corrected. (Details here.)
- Dr. Farrell was an author on a study with a Marine Harvest representative that was funded partly by the Norwegian Fishery and Aquaculture Research Fund that is “used for industrial R&D work for the benefit of all or part of the industry“
- Dr. Farrell was an author on another study funded partly by the Norwegian Fishery and Aquaculture Research Fund.
- Dr. Tillmann Benfey, University of New Brunswick
- Dr. Tillmann’s webpage includes “…served twice as President of the Aquaculture Association of Canada.”
- Dr. Tillmann was an author with a MOWI representative. The study was partly funded by MOWI, a Norwegian-owned salmon farming company with major operations in Canada.
- Dr. Mark Fast, University of Prince Edward Island
- UPEI’s website includes “Partnering with Fast on the project are Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafoods…”
- Dr. Ian Gardner, University of Prince Edward Island
- Dr. Gardner published with an author from Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd., a salmon farming division of Cooke Aquaculture Inc.
- Dr. Ian Gardner published with coauthors Drs. Powell (#5) and Siah (#6), with a Cermaq employee. This study was “partly funded through a CSIRO Julius career award.” CSIRO Aquaculture appears to fund projects that benefit aquaculture. Did Cermaq fund the other part of this study?
- Dr. Jim Powell, former CEO, British Columbia Centre for Aquatic Health Services (CAHS)
- CAHS is a non-for-profit that offers fish health science services to B.C.’s open-net salmoning farming industry.
- See #4 for another example for Dr. Powell
- Dr. Ahmed Siah, current Managing Director, CAHS
- CAHS is a not-for-profit that offers fish health science services to B.C.’s open-net salmoning farming industry.
- Dr. Siah was an author with a Marine Harvest employee. The study was funded by Marine Harvest through a contract with CAHS. The study required corrections including, to an overstated conclusion about a virus common on open-net salmon farms.
- See #4 for another example for Dr. Siah
- Dr. Crawford Revie, University of Prince Edward Island, University of Strathclyde
- Dr. Revie published with an employee of Modail Mara Inc. whose clients include Mowi, BC Salmon Farmers Association and Grieg Seafood.
- Dr. Revie published again with Modail Mara Inc. and was partly funded by FHF – Norwegian Seafood Research Fund that is “financed by the industry through a levy on exports of Norwegian Seafood at 0,3 %. FHFs goal is to create added value to the seafood industry through industry-based research and development (R&D).”
- Dr. Spencer Russell, Vancouver Island University
- Dr. Kurt Gamperl, Memorial University
- Dr. Gamperl is connected to a program called Mitigating the Impact of Climate-Related Challenges on Salmon Aquaculture (MICCSA). A video describing the program is titled “Warming sea temperatures threaten Atlantic Canada’s Aquaculture Industry – a $4.4 million research project aims to save farmed Atlantic salmon from climate change”