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Morton charges DFO coverup, declares 'May Day' for wild salmon

Biologist Alexandra Morton has charged the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with suppressing evidence of viral infections in Fraser sockeye, and called for a "May Day for Wild Salmon" rally in Victoria on May 1.

On March 30, Morton published a letter to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea on her blog, citing evidence brought out at the Cohen Inquiry:

Under questioning by my lawyer at the Cohen Inquiry, your Director General of Science, Pacific Region revealed you were briefed that a cancer-causing virus may be killing the majority of some runs of Fraser River sockeye. You chose not to inform us, the people who pay your generous salary.

In response, senior fisheries scientist Jeff Hutchings spoke out that your ministry also ignored its own scientists in favour of policy when they let the eastern Canadian cod collapse instead of changing policy. He knows because he was there. You are not going to let DFO do this again!

...Known as Salmon Leukemia, Marine Anemia by fish farmers, this virus destroys fish immune systems and became epidemic in the salmon feedlots at the same time the Fraser sockeye began declining in the early 1990s. When your scientist found evidence it is killing and weakening our fish you failed to tell the public.

In addition to this, you refuse to acknowledge the evidence that the lethal Atlantic salmon virus, ISAV, can be imported into BC in fish farm eggs. If you weaken our fish with Salmon Leukemia and then throw a new virus at them, we will have nothing left.

On March 31, Morton posted again on her blog, saying "... the Get Out Migration marches on with ‘Mayday for Wild Salmon.’ I will be traveling through BC asking people to lead government and asking candidates if they would remove salmon feedlots from BC waters if they are elected."

Details of the May Day campaign are on the Salmon are Sacred website. They include late-April events in communities as far apart as Horsefly and Clayoquot Sound, culminating in a 24-hour vigil in Victoria on May 1, the eve of the federal election.

Meanwhile, the Cohen Commission reported on Twitter this afternoon that "Transcripts are posted for hearings up to March 15. We should be caught up before hearings resume on Monday."

The website of the B.C. Fish Farmers Association has nothing recent about the Cohen Commission, though the Association's spring 2011 newsletter does mention it. The blog of Marine Harvest Canada has no recent mention of the commission.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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