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August 19, 2011

Mail from Alexandra Morton

Hello Wild Salmon People;

The aquaculture hearings begin on Monday, August 22, with hearings on disease.  The legal teams have submitted the material they would like question the witnesses with.  Thus we have tipped our hands, we know what we are up against.  Justice Cohen gets to decide whether documents will be admitted into evidence.  He will decide what the witnesses need to answer to.

On the first panel are four experts in salmon disease.  

Dr. Stewart Johnson, Head of Aquatic Animal Health, DFO, is responsible for understanding the health of the Fraser sockeye.  

Dr. Michael Kent, is a professor at Oregon State University, who used to work for DFO. During that time  he wrote several scientific papers on Salmon Leukemia.  Salmon Leukemia has two other names - Plasmacytoid Leukemia and Marine Anemia. We have already seen evidence that Dr. Miller, the scientist apparently muzzled by the Privy Council, suspected this disease was responsible for the 18-year decline and crash of the Fraser sockeye.  Plasmacytoid  Leukemia arrived on the Fraser sockeye migration route in the early 1990s in Chinook salmon farms. It killed so many farm salmon it threatened the survival of the smaller companies that were operating at that time.  Kent and others tried to figure out what it was. They put it through screens, measured its bouyancy, tested its ability to infect, and arrived at the conclusion that it must be a virus. it did infect sockeye and to a lesser extent Atlantic salmon.  For some reason they never completed this work, leaving this disease difficult to diagnose.

Dr. Christine MacWilliams is a Fish Health vet for DFO's Salmon Enhancement Program.

Dr. Craig Stephens is Director at the Centre for Coastal Health & Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Co-incidentally he did his PhD Thesis on Plasmacytoid Leukemia!  In a paper he coauthored in 1995 he wrote:

  • “Evidence supporting the hypothesis that marine  anemia is a spreading, infectious neoplastic [cell proliferating] disease could have profound regulatory effects on the salmon farming industry” Stephens and Ribble (1995). With Dr. Kent he wrote that the environmental conditions created by intensive aquaculture may have facilitated the emergence of marine anemia. (Stephen, Ribble and Kent, 1996).
  • In a statement in his Thesis at the U of Saskatchewan 1995 he wrote: we should be in "...preparation for the possibility of marine anemia becoming a problem for other farmed and wild species."
  • Dr. Stephens did publish on a method of diagnosing Salmon Leukemia by examining the kidney. This has been helpful to the salmon farming industry.
Justice Cohen has provided us an interesting panel of experts.  As these hearings proceed it will be a detective effort.  The best fit answer is going to have to explain an 18-year decline of only the sockeye that migrate along eastern Vancouver Island, while other neighbouring runs were unaffected, even increasing.  It will have to account for the 2010 return and a seemingly good run this year. DFO has deemed the 2011 run big enough that several fisheries have been opened.  And the answer will have to fit the timing, behaviour and condition of the Fraser sockeye over this time period.

I am going to try and write blogs as often as possible to keep you informed. We are encouraging a media outlet to live-stream the hearings to a website.  We will also be distributing daily briefings to the public.  First Nations of the Fraser River and the coast will be holding a rally on the 30th. All of this information will be kept updated at . 

If any of you can offer support it would help enormously. You can donate via pay pal at or send a check to Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society, Box 399, Sointula, BC V0N 3E0

Stay tuned for a great detective effort into the future one of the last and most generous natural resources on earth - the Fraser sockeye.  Show up if you can, because it is going to make a difference for the witnesses to have your support.

The fish have shown us they can survive with us, now it is time for us to do our part.

Alexandra Morton  

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