Cohen Inquiry sets sights on 'Diseases' and 'Aquaculture'
Finally, nearly eight months to the day when the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) handed over "reams of data" on infectious diseases to the Cohen Commission, the public will be able to judge the health of B.C. salmon feedlots for themselves.
22nd August is D-Day for the Norwegian-owned salmon farming industry when 'Diseases' will be tackled for the first time at the Cohen Inquiry. The schedule unveiled today lists 'Diseases' to be discussed on 22nd, 23rd and 24th August.
'Aquaculture' will be on the agenda on 25th, 26th, 29th, 30th and 31st of August and then following the long Labour Day weekend again on 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th September.
The full schedule is available online now (but names of witnesses to give evidence have still not been posted).
The B.C. salmon farming industry (which is in 92% owned by Norwegian companies) has been fighting behind the scenes for years to stop the full disclosure of disease information whilst repeatedly claiming in public that they have "healthy fish", "a strong record of good health" and that "B.C.'s farmed salmon are healthy".
In January this year, after a ruling by Justice Cohen, the BCSFA was forced to hand over to the Cohen Commission ten years of disease data for 120 salmon feedlots (the BCSFA only wanted to release five years of data for 21 farms). However, following a 'Ruling on Undertakings of Confidentiality' by the Cohen Commission in June this "unprecedented data release" was judged to remain confidential until the evidential hearings.
The public can safely expect some dynamite revelations on diseases starting on D-Day - 22nd August. Even the BCSFA's own 'Fish Health Database' reveals deadly diseases, viruses, pathogens and bacteria. In fact, the latest disease data for Q1 2010 (2011 information is still not publicly available) reports: Lepeophtheirus Infection, Myxobacterial Infection, Viral Haemorrhagic Septicemia Virus Infection, Aeromonas salmonicida Infection and Piscirickettsia salmonis Infection. A financial report published this week by Marine Harvest also reveals that the parasite Kudoa cost the company in Canada NOK 23 million ($4 millon) and resulted in reduced prices (kudoa causes myoliquefaction or soft-flesh syndrome which is off-putting to buyers).
Mary-Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BCSFA, wrote in a letter to The Courier-Islander published last week that:
"Making sure that all information is available to readers in a balanced and intelligent manner is important when you're dealing with complex scientific topics such as this one. We're hopeful that the Cohen Commission will enable just that - encouraging public debate in a way that presents the information rationally and evenly."
However, the BCSFA failed to mention the fact that disclosure of disease information would lead to 'irrevocable' and 'irreparable' financial losses. Those words are lifted directly from submissions of the BCSFA to the Cohen Inquiry. In May, the BCSFA conceded that should disease data be disclosed publicly there would be a “likelihood of misuse and irrevocable damage to the economic interests and reputations of participants and individuals”. In another submission to the Cohen Inquiry in May, the BCSFA admitted that “irreparable damage will occur to the reputations and economic interests of the BCSFA’s member companies and their shareholders”.
The Globe & Mail also reported in May that (in data submitted to the Cohen Inquiry): “There are approximately 35 indications of the existence of ISA identified in these records to date”. If ISA (Infectious Salmon Anaemia) is not already lurking in B.C. then what dirty big secrets would precipitate such a financial meltdown? What deadly diseases and sordid secrets are the Norwegian-owned companies hiding?
Thankfully, in a month's time the public will finally be able to find out the truth. You don't need to be Superman to hear the fat lady singing already.
For more background on the Cohen Inquiry visit our 'Cohen' page online.
And read our blogs:
"DFO's 'shoddy science' revealed at Cohen Inquiry" (13th July)
"Beamish me up Dicky" (8th July)
"Heatwave as Cohen Inquiry Heads for Summer Break" (7th July)
"Cohen's Countdown on Disease Time-Bomb" (29th June)
"Cracking the Cohen Code, Deciphering the Disease Conundrum" (27th June)
"Cohen Clampdown on Confidentiality" (24th June)