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Fish farms: 'Cover-up from day one,' says Morton

Biologist Alexandra Morton today released information showing that fish farms tried as early as 1995 to keep outbreaks of sea lice -- and the use of drugs against them -- secret from the public.

In a post on the Wild Salmon Are Sacred blog, Morton posted copies of emails from the fall of 1995 documenting a serious outbreak of sea lice at a farm on Okisollo Channel, on the migration route of the Fraser sockeye.

The farm had requested permission to use hydrogen peroxide to treat its fish. But it withdrew its request when told by the NDP government's Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks that the application would have to be made public.

After summarizing the emails (and providing the full texts), Morton wrote:

These documents reveal heroes among our MELP bureaucrats who tried to protect our wild salmon from salmon farms. Gordon Campbell disbanded MELP as soon as he took office in 2001, and he renamed MAFF, MAL and gave them control of allocation of Crown Land. The fish farm industry did not develop a sea lice action plan, the public lost their government biologist advocates, sea lice outbreaks continue with lethal infection underway today rates on wild juvenile salmon on the Fraser migration route (Okisollo Channel) (photos available) and Fraser sockeye stocks migrating through Okisollo Channel are in steep decline.

Speaking to The Tyee, Morton said: "I think there's been a cover-up from day one of the Campbell government. The people in the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks were made to go away. They supported fish farms, but for them, the wild salmon came first."

On June 16, Morton will receive an honorary Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University for her work in sea-lice science.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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