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Cohen Commission hears explosive testimony on salmon disease

After two days of testimony, with one more to come on Monday, the Cohen Commission has heard remarkable assertions about Infectious Salmon Anemia virus in wild and farmed salmon on the B.C. coast. Both the mainstream media and the blogosphere have covered the hearings in detail.

Writing in The Globe and Mail, Mark Hume reported that respected scientists testified they felt "attacked" after reporting they had found ISA virus in samples of sockeye and other salmon.

Dr. Fred Kibenge, chair of the department of pathology and microbiology at the University of Prince Edward Island, was quoted as saying the Canadian Food Inspection Agency appeared to be trying to undermining his credibility.

Hume also wrote that Dr. Kristi Miller said she found herself "isolated" and "pretty alienated" from her colleagues in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since reporting multiple findings of ISAv.

In a December 15 report, Hume quoted Miller as saying that ISAv, or some virus very much like it, has been present in wild and farmed salmon since at least 1986. The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association says the provincial government encouraged Norwegian investment in the industry in the early 1980s. The Association itself was formed in 1984.

On the website EcoWatch, a December 16 post by the Living Oceans Society said ISAv had been found in Prince Edward Island in a "closed, land-locked facility," implying that the virus must have arrived via eggs or smolts. This has been the concern of B.C. wild-salmon advocates -- that imported Atlantic salmon eggs have introduced the disease to the west coast.

On the blog Salmon Guy, a December 16 post cited an email from the CFIA, saying that CFIA and DFO were "turning the PR tide to our favour" -- "Concentrate on the headlines, that's often all that people read or remember."

Meanwhile, Alexandra Morton was blogging that "the CFIA was busily trying to make ISAv disappear." Her earlier posts provided background on the controversy.

These and other arguments were being tweeted at #salmonfacts and #ISAv.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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