Salmon farming battle heats up in British Columbia with activists targeting scientists and aquaculture-friendly First Nations
By Fabian Dawson
Salmon farming activists in British Columbia have taken to social media to attack government scientists, aquaculture-dependent First Nations and individuals working in the industry.
Leading the pack is self-described ‘independent biologist’ Alexandra Morton, who is being accused by the Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation of sharing a doctored video of a community Finfish Aquaculture Science Workshop.
“The clip that was doctored and shared by Ms. Morton grossly undermines the workshop’s goal, and we feel it was a disrespectful representation of the hard work and dedication of these world-renowned scientists and the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation,” the First Nation said in a Facebook post.
“The workshop was essential in educating others and supporting our community, and it is unacceptable to see it reduced to a condescending and inaccurate representation.
“We are deeply concerned about Alexandra Morton’s statement and video, in which she purposely selected only portions of the data and presentation content resulting in a misleading message to the general public.”
The presentation was by Dr Simon Jones, the lead scientist in the finfish parasitology program at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Pacific Biological Station, who was part of a recent government study that concluded there is “no statistically relevant association” regarding sea lice and the production of farmed salmon.
The government report dismantles a key claim by Morton and other anti-fish farming activist groups that hazardous levels of naturally occurring parasitic sea lice in B.C. waters should necessitate the shutting down of the salmon farming industry.
Morton in her Facebook post said; “I edited this from 30 minutes down to 1.5 minutes. I believe this is an ongoing attempt to seed doubt, a tried a true method of fooling the public to protect industries that harm our health and planet.”
She goes on to connect Dr Jones, a globally recognised fisheries scientist to “research fraud” at DFO, which she claims is working in collusion with salmon farmers.
“Dr Jones was recently caught altering the results of the research he presented in Klemtu,” claims Morton on Facebook.
The Kitasoo Xai’xais whose traditional territories span British Columbia’s central coast in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, are aquaculture pioneers in the province and have been farming salmon in partnership with Mowi for almost two decades.
“All of this sea lice data has been independently collected by Kitasoo Xai’xais fisheries staff over the course of 18 years, longer than any other,” said the First Nation.
“The information presented in the workshop is critical to the success of our Nation and the industry, and it is disheartening to see it misrepresented in such a manner.
“We ask that Ms. Morton retract her inaccurate representation of the workshop and provide a corrected statement that accurately reflects the information shared.”
Last year the anti-salmon farm activist ratcheted up her conspiracy-laden rants accusing DFO of being a criminal organisation working with a deep state of government scientists aligned with the aquaculture industry.
She has also turned her sights on Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, claiming the minister has betrayed her election promise to transition open-net finfish farms to land-based operations in BC.
Murray is expected to announce, soon, a decision on the salmon farms in the contentious Discovery Islands, after a Federal Court ordered the government to set aside its ruling to phase out the marine operations in the area.
The court, in making the decision, reaffirmed an earlier ruling that “salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.”
It also rejected attempts by Morton, to be part of the legal proceedings saying: “Morton’s proposed affidavit contains untested hearsay evidence, contains improper opinion evidence under the guise of being factual evidence.”
Those working in BC’s salmon farming industry, which supports over 6,500 jobs, have also been victimised on the activists’ social media channels with comments like “Enemy of our natural resources”, “Lock her up”, “Better a sister in a brothel than a brother on a salmon farm” and “She’s cute. She will land on her feet.”
Another person targeted by the activists is Buy BC’s new chef ambassador Ned Bell , who champions responsible aquaculture. He has been labelled ‘disgraceful’ by Morton after calling for “smart collaboration dedicated to making salmon production systems ever better.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship said activists don’t tend to respect the rights and title of First Nations who don’t align with their agendas.
The leaders of the coalition have urged “politicians not to listen to the misinformed, often urban and far-removed, minority and respect the rights of First Nations to govern in their territories as they need”.
(From Files – Screen shot off a YouTube video message by Alexandra Morton to former Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan)