After the escape of an estimated 40,000 Atlantic salmon from the Marine Harvest fish farm at Port Elizabeth on October 21, biologist Alexandra Morton has renewed her call for an independent judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run this summer.
Writing on her blog just before the escape was known, Morton published an open letter to Paul Sprout, Regional Director General of Pacific DFO. Among other points, she wrote:
Before he became Premier, Stephen Harper called for a judicial inquiry into what happened to the 2005 Fraser sockeye. The ruling party said “no.” Was the truth inconvenient? Is it still inconvenient? Would we have abundant sockeye this year if a 2005 Inquiry had occurred? If Canada had done a Judicial Inquiry into the declining North Atlantic cod stocks we would still have those fish. We would have learned that crucial findings by government scientists such as Dr. Ransom Myers had been suppressed by DFO.
On October 23, Morton ran a news release from NDP MP Peter Julian, calling for a judicial inquiry. The release also quoted Fin Donnelly, NDP candidate in the November 9 by-election in New Westminster-Coquitlam, as saying "the wild salmon crisis will be a key issue." Morton also included a news release from Marine Harvest about the escape.
In an email to The Tyee, Morton wrote:
Watching how government is handling the Fraser sockeye crash has been disturbing. The public has been misled by statements that draw our attention away from the extremely specific nature of the crash. Some runs failed catastrophically, others did extremely well, within the Fraser River.
If we pay attention and read what the fish are telling us, we can figure this out, but there is only so much a biologist can do. I am greatly heartened to see MP Peter Julian make a public demand for a judicial inquiry into what happened to the Fraser sockeye.
If there had been a judicial inquiry into the cod decline, before those fish crossed the point of no return we would have learned that the research by government scientist Ransom Myers was being suppressed by DFO and we would still have those cod today.
...I don’t fully understand why fish seem to bring out the worst in politics, but I do know we will not keep our salmon unless they gain favour in the polished halls of Ottawa. The biggest thing BC’s salmon need to survive is political will.
Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.