Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Presiding over disaster

These are aims of Fisheries and Oceans Canada as stated by the Minister's cynical minions:
"DFO manages fisheries in accordance with the roles and responsibilities outlined in the Fisheries Act, using credible, science-based, affordable and effective practices. Key priorities for fisheries management in Canada include:
  • environmental sustainability;
  • economic viability; and
  • the inclusion of stakeholders in decision-making processes."
But, for a dose of reality, Alexandra Morton offers a stunning analysis of how the protectors of fisheries actually operated.
"[Dr. Dick] Beamish is a very influential, recently retired DFO scientist. He was the Director of the Pacific Biological Station, Head of Salmon Interactions and he received the Order of Canada. . .
Read Morton's entire article and try to answer the question she poses:
". . . Was Beamish influenced by policy or other pressures, not science, in his reporting to the Canadian public why millions of Fraser sockeye failed to return in 2009?"
I can deduce schemers who would eagerly suborn senior politicos and ranking fisheries scientists, if given the opportunity. We don't know that happened here. Perhaps DFO chose to boost west coast fish farming at the expense of wild fisheries. Perhaps the department made that decision internally, perhaps they were instructed by political officials. Maybe, they believe that open net fish farms pose no risks and evidence to the contrary is mistaken.

Concerned citizens must be troubled when, under scrutiny, an influential expert discredits his own work yet still promotes a theory that, in Morton's words, is biological gibberish. We cannot help suppose that a goal beyond environmental sustainability has gained precedence at DFO.

The stakes are so high that we must pay attention to Alexandra Morton and the coalition of environmentalists who urge caution in authorization of open net fish farms.  Incompetent ocean resource management and industrial prioritization have already put the coastal fisheries resources at risk. Continuation of such carelessness will have important consequences, not just to survival of a food source but to the cultures of First Nations people on the west coast.

Remember, the DFO is the same organization that presided over destruction of east coast fishing, leading to loss of the North Atlantic cod. The similarity of circumstance is chilling. Alexandra Morton reminds us,
"Policy drove DFO to overpower its own scientist who was warning the collapse was coming rapidly and who advised on how to avoid it. No one in DFO was held accountable for this even though the cod collapse was avoidable and is robbing entire generations of a food resource, jobs and stable communities. (Hutchings et al 1997)"
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