Party politics

A key aquaculture industry spokesperson has asked the provincial New Democrats' agriculture and lands critic to reconsider throwing a welcome celebration for a prominent fish farm opponent, expressing surprise the party is taking place at the MLA's non-partisan, taxpayer-funded constituency office. But the critic, Lana Popham, has said she's just promoting a community event, offering to host a similar party for an aquaculture company.

At issue is biologist Alexandra Morton's Vancouver Island walk to draw attention to her campaign against open-net fish farms.

Ms. Morton is scheduled to conclude that walk in Victoria on May 8, with her route going past Ms. Popham's constituency office. So the New Democrat MLA has invited constituents to come to the office, enjoy some refreshments and join the biologist on her way to the legislature.

"Alexandra Morton is a powerful voice speaking out against industrial aquaculture and its harmful effects on wild salmon," Ms. Popham enthused in a posting on her blog. "Her goal is ensure that our wild BC salmon does not end up like the destroyed Atlantic Cod stocks - but instead that the wild stocks are a vibrant part a healthy ecosystem."

But Mary Ellen Walling was less enthusiastic about that party.

In an email to the New Democrat MLA, the BC Salmon Farmers Association executive director wrote, "I was surprised and frankly disappointed to see that you are publically (sic) taking sides on this issue. I really felt that after your tour and meeting with our farm staff that you had a much better understanding of salmon farming and had broadened your perspectives somewhat."

"As you know we very much agree that wild salmon are very important and need to be protected - but there are a multitude of factors that are contributing to issues facing them. Supporting this focus on the removal of salmon farms is shortsighted and misguided," Ms. Walling continued, adding she was "also surprised to see that you are organizing this event out of your constituency office, at taxpayer expense."

The fish farm spokesperson's email concluded by asking Ms. Popham to "reconsider your direct sponsorship of this event."

But it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

"I understand their complaint," the MLA told Public Eye. "But my community office is open to anyone in the community or anybody who wants to hold an event. So actually Marine Harvest is very welcome to come and do an event in my office as well."

Describing her celebration for Ms. Morton as a "community response" not a "partisan event," Ms. Popham noted the biologist's walk is "coming right by my office. So it's a bit of a pitstop. And, as far as the coffee and the tea, I offer that all the time to anyone who comes in."

As for her what her own view is on fish farming, the MLA said, "I have my own personal beliefs. But as an MLA and as somebody who is working as a critic, I am always open to more information. That's what I'm going to see them tomorrow morning" - referring to her upcoming tour of Marine Harvest Canada's Quadra Island operation with federal New Democrat parliamentarian Fin Donnelly.

The following is a complete copy of Ms. Walling's email.


From: Mary Ellen Walling
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2010 2:12 PM
To: ''
Cc: 'Backman, Clare'; 'Roberts, Ian'; ''; 'Mia Parker'; 'Colleen Dane'; ''; ''
Subject: FW: Lana Popham invite to reception for Alexandra Morton

Hi Lana, I was surprised and frankly disappointed to see that you are publically taking sides on this issue. I really felt that after your tour and meeting with our farm staff that you had a much better understanding of salmon farming and had broadened your perspectives somewhat. As you know we very much agree that wild salmon are very important and need to be protected - but there are a multitude of factors that are contributing to issues facing them. Supporting this focus on the removal of salmon farms is shortsighted and misguided.

As we explained to you some months ago significant amounts of misinformation are being spread about the effect of salmon farms on wild salmon stocks. Studies show that Pacific salmon have developed a natural ability to resist sea lice damage and even shed them once they reach a certain size. Reports also show that sea lice numbers on wild salmon in areas away from farms are about the same, and sometimes more, than on wild fish in areas with farms.

I was also surprised to see that you are organizing this event out of your constituency office, at taxpayer's expense. I would urge you to review this testimony given by Ms Morton and Dr Sheppard at the Standing Committee -the links to the testimony are at the bottom of this page.

I am asking that you reconsider your direct sponsorship of this event.

Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen Walling
Executive Director,
BC Salmon Farmers Association


No way Ms. Popham. The lady that you're touting manipulates the public to advance propoganda. Hosting this event at my expense - no way.

Mary Jacobs

This is in fact a great use of our community office. The degradation of our salmon stocks is an issue that effects all islanders and I for one am thrilled that we have a MLA that is putting her energy, and her office's resources into bringing it to the attention of her constituents. This is exactly the kind of work that an MLA should be doing.

I attended MLA Popham's community forum on smart transportation planning as well as her pre-budget community consultation. This MLA is working hard to engage her constituents in conversation and debate. Again - this is the kind of work that a MLA should be doing.

If Mary wants to talk about tax payer's expense why don't we have a conversation about just how much money the tax payers have paid to monitor and access and study the damage that the fish farm industry has and will cause to our wild fish stocks. I'm sure these costs far out weight the costs for coffee and cookies that Lana's office will offer a group of engaged citizens connecting at their provincial community office.

Thanks for the concern Mary, but I vote for my taxes being spent on public consultation and education and community involvement in the protection of my natural resources!

I find it strange that an MLA can only meet those who support the present fish farms in BC but not those who have done research to show the damage they have done. It is important that our MLA's get as much information as possible so they can make enlightened decisions. Mary Ellen Walling's comments are disingenuous.

Sean, I feel that Lana Popham is being picked on by some of these people. It's important for electeds to hear all sides and Lana is a maverick, sadly of the wrong party.

I personally like safe fish farms to reduce demand on wild stocks. In theory...

the BC Salmon Farmers Association executive director wrote, "I was surprised and frankly disappointed to see that you are publically (sic) taking sides on this issue..."

I would have trouble with an elected representative who was unwilling to meet with any peaceful citizens group. Ms. Walling apparently believes it is appropriate for the MLA to visit their facilities and meet privately with fish farmers to hear their information without public participation. Yet, she thinks Alexandra Morton and the many citizens who admire and support her work should be refused opportunity to make representations. And, those would be made openly in the public eye.

If this is an example of the industry's leadership, no wonder it is losing its public disinformation campaign. Alexandra Morton has been consistent, accurate and truthful. That makes her a hard person to argue against.

Hey Josef;

You say Alexandra Morton is accurate and truthful.

Let's see - she said pink salmon were to be exinct by now - they ain't. She said farmed salmon have ISA virus - they don't.

Accurate. Yeah, sure, if you don't know she's been lying to you.

Wake up.

More industry disinformation. Morton warned in 2005 that particular runs would go extinct if nothing were done. By 2007, government and industry were assuring us that they had the sea lice problem handled. It is not. One of the responses is to use massive quantities of emamectin benzoate, a chemical that lingers and is losing effectiveness. So, then we can pump up the toxicity of chemicals. There is much evidence that Morton is correct. The industry should be honest enough to admit that they don't care, that would allow them to take over the rest of the coast for fish farming.

There are land based alternatives for fish farming. Consumers will simply have to pay more for a higher cost product. Let's exercise the precautionary principle in the ocean.

Jim Bruinig | April 23, 2010 4:56 PM | Reply

You put words into my mouth/comment I never said. I wasn't taking sides and qualified my support of fish farms with "in theory".

Sorry Josef, my comment was intended for Norm Farrell. And apparently Norm needs to be corrected...again. No massive quantities of emamectin benzoate used my friend - and here's the graph to prove it (highest use is 0.25 grams per metric TONNE of fish).
Oh, and no resistance either.

Pink salmon returned in record numbers in 2009, so your hero was wrong, wrong, wrong.

You are angry, go get counselling.

Thanks Jim. I'll head on out now.

So Walling is wailing again about nothing. Kudos to Ms. Popham for actually putting her constituency office to some use. Most of the ones that I see in the lower mainland have less activity than a picnic in a blizzard.

There was a story on the news the other night where Save-ON-Foods is promoting farmed salmon from a closed containment farm located in Washington State. They are selling this coho salmon for exactly the same price as they sell the Atlantic salmon raised by our fish farms. In my books, this blows a big whole in the argument that closed containment is too expensive.

It's time for Marine Harvest and the rest of their ilk to remove their open net farms and either utilize closed containment or just go home.

Mr. Bruinig,

Thank you for providing the link to the British Columbia government graph of year-over-year (average?) useage of emamectin benzoate from 1996-2008. Indeed, according to the histogram provided, it would appear that the avearge dose was approximately 0.25 g per metric tonne in 2005. Leaving aside the fact, for the moment that 0.25 g, can also be written as 250 mg or 250,000 µg, perhaps you could comment on the year-by-year ratio increases in usage of the compound since 1999? Although there are no absolute numbers on the graph I would estimate the ratio increase that 6 year period is at least 100 fold.

Of course, if you did the comparison from 1998 forward, the fold increase would actually be infinity given that no emamectin benzoate was used in 1998.

Finally, given the massive fold increase in dosage from 1998-2005, which has since been maintained through 2008, what, specifically, is your evidence that no resistance has developed?



There is a vast difference between touring a salmon farming facility and SPONSORING an event for wild salmon activist Alex Morton. If you are a political leader you need to stay neutral until the fog has cleared. The fog is no where near cleared on this issue.

It is inappropriate for Lana Popham to be sponsoring this event out of tax payers money. I know at least 6,000 people who are not going to be happy that this is the way their money is going to be spent.

I urge any stakeholders in the Salmon Farming industry to write a letter or email to Lana Popham about your dissatisfaction in her support of this so called "community" event.

The industry and the provincial government has objectives that prioritize profits. Further they have a record of inaccuracy and deceit. I suggest that readers not rely on anonymous claims or reports produced by parties with economic interests tied to the expansion of unsafe open net fish farms.

By example, the Stanford Institute for International Studies agrees that, if well managed, aquaculture can help feed the world's growing population. However, they also say:

" . . . farmed salmon, shrimp, and other carnivorous species often take more out of the oceans than they keep in.

...nearly two pounds of wild fish are required for every pound of farmed fish raised on processed meal.

Farming more-vegetarian fish and shellfish--such as carp and mussels--is one way to produce needed fish protein for people without depleting ocean populations. Moreover, shellfish farming purifies the water by filtering out algae and waste.

People should be aware that they are not doing the environment a favor at all by eating farmed salmon."

Clearly, aquaculture can be conducted in British Columbia without putting wild species at risk or losing economic benefits. In fact the operating labor component of land based closed-water systems would be higher, meaning more wages in small communities.

Alexandra Morton is one person who has spoken out in favor of the public interest. There are many more with solid credentials in science and no financial interest driving their opinions.

International business has a history of exploiting a resource until it is exhausted, then moving on. There is no better example than the silver mines of Potosi in Bolivia. Although this is the richest silver mine in history, people there today live in poverty with a life expectancy of about 40 years. Today, miners as young as 8 earn little more than $1 a day. Over the very long history of silver mining at Potosi, millions of miners have died from their work. The number cannot be fully validated but some historians put the toll at 8 million.

An earlier commenter said I was angry. I will admit that, the more I learn about the need to protect our environment, the more my anger does rise. There is an old expression that serves us well:

"We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

Soon, I will have five grandchildren under the age of five. Yes, I get angry to realize they will be left with a world less wonderful than it could be.

Ms. Popham says that she is always open to more information. On that note, I have written to her to express my concern and my opinions, and to raise questions about Alexandra Morton's sea lice research and how it has become a main reason for the campaign to "reform" salmon farming and switch the industry to so-called "closed containment." I am also writing to share my views with your readers and to inquire as to whether Public Eye Online would be willing to take an in-depth look at this.

This is a long post because there are a lot of facts that need to be put on the table for an informed discussion.

Please allow me to begin by disclosing that I am an ex-fish farmer. I worked in the industry in 2002 and 2003 and did two short consultancies in 2007. I have not worked for the salmon farming industry since then.

If sound science shows that sea lice originating from salmon farms cause high levels of mortality among juvenile salmon in the wild and put their populations at risk of extinction, it goes without saying that salmon farms should be closed. The fact is, however, this is NOT what Alexandra Morton's research actually shows. In simple terms, here's why:

1) Sea lice levels at salmon farms and mortality in the wild were never measured.

2) A method to trace the origin of sea lice just doesn't exist. If follows that claims about "farm-origin" sea lice, are impossible to substantiate and, therefore, false. Sea lice can be observed on wild fish - as Alexandra Morton has done - but there's no way of telling whether they came from a salmon farm or from other wild fish.

3) The actual research findings were correlative. A correlation is not evidence of causality.

4) In the analysis on which the extinction prediction is based, data prior to 2000 and data for the largest pink salmon watershed in the Broughton Archipelago (Glendale Creek), was excluded. When all relevant data is considered, Brooks & Jones (2008) find that wild pink salmon populations in the Broughton appear to be INCREASING. Twenty scientists from Canada, the U.S. and Europe, have endorsed this view.

5) Some of Alexandra Morton's published research actually predicted high SURVIVAL of wild salmon in some areas - despite exposure to sea lice (Krkosek et al., 2006). The published prediction of high mortality has been selectively publicized while the prediction of high survival has gone virtually unmentioned. In this way, the published papers and the researcher's press releases don't match.

6) The computer-generated prediction of extinction is at odds with the very good wild pink salmon returns of 2000, 2004 (in Glendale Creek), and 2009.

In 2000, after 15 years of salmon farming in the Broughton, the return of wild pink salmon was the HIGHEST on record since the 1950s. The return to Glendale Creek, the largest watershed in the Broughton, in 2004, was also one of the HIGHEST since the 1950s. In 2009, returns of wild pink salmon were good enough that DFO allowed commercial fishing on the very same stocks that Alexandra Morton and David Suzuki have been saying are at serious risk of extinction. And yet, to the best of my knowledge, they voiced no concern about that.

Sea lice research by Alexandra Morton and her colleagues was done under the auspices of the Centre for Mathematical Biology (CMB) at the University of Alberta (UofA). In 2006, the CMB reported to the UofA that the CMB had a "research partnership" with an American organization called SeaWeb and that SeaWeb generated 150 media stories about sea lice research, in 2005 alone. The CMB also reported to the UofA that it received funding from a commercial fishing company, Finest At Sea Ocean Products but neither the "research partnership" with SeaWeb nor the funding from commercial fishing interests were reported in a scientific paper published six days later. To the best of my knowledge, the sea lice researchers did not inform the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture about their funding from commercial fishing interests.

According to one of Alexandra Morton's colleagues, more than 500 news stories have publicized their sea lice research.

At the time that SeaWeb publicized the CMB's sea lice research, SeaWeb was paid $560,000 by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, based in California, ("the Moore foundation") to co-ordinate an "antifarming campaign" involving "science messages," "earned media," and "co-ordination of media for antifarming ENGOs (environmental organizations)."

Science messages? Earned media? Antifarming ENGOs???

According to U.S. tax returns, the purpose of this campaign was to shift consumer and retailer demand away from farmed salmon.

Over the same period that SeaWeb was paid to co-ordinate the "antifarming campaign," SeaWeb was also paid to implement Seafood Choices, a marketing strategy which involves 1) Marine Stewardship Council certification, 2) Large U.S. buyers, and 3) "Context Setting." A large number of MSC certified products are Alaskan salmon.

Seafood Choices and the "antifarming campaign" appear to be related: one is to sway market demand towards MSC-certified products - many of which are Alaskan salmon - and the other is to shift consumers and retailers away from the competition: farmed salmon. SeaWeb is paid to co-ordinate both.

Since 2002 and the bad press over PCBs in farmed salmon and sea lice, many consumers have shifted to "wild" salmon. The value of Alaskan salmon has tripled.

The Moore foundation has admitted that not only it funded SeaWeb's "antifarming campaign," it also partially funded the sea lice research itself through the David Suzuki Foundation. Why didn't David Suzuki admit this when I specifically asked him about his foundation's apparent involvement in the "antifarming campaign" in a detailed letter sent in 2007?

Since 2000, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation ("the Packard foundation") has paid SeaWeb about $20.7 million, including $8.5 million for Seafood Choices.

At the time that studies about both PCBs in farmed salmon, and sea lice, were published in the journal SCIENCE, the Editor-in-Chief was a trustee of the Packard foundation. The current Editor-in-Chief of SCIENCE is a trustee of the Moore foundation.

According to my calculations based on U.S. tax returns and on-line databases, since 2000 the Packard foundation and the Moore foundation have granted about $88 million to organizations in B.C. - all of which are not favorable to salmon farming.

Together, the Packard foundation and the Moore foundation have granted $24.3 million specifically for aquaculture "reform" and demarketing farmed salmon. Demarketing is reducing or shifting demand away.

According to my calculations, since 2000 the Packard foundation has granted about
$75 million for various projects to sway the fish market, especially for salmon.

The widely-cited paper titled "A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids" is published in PLoS, a journal created with $9 million from the Moore foundation. The editor of that paper, Dr. Callum Roberts, is a member of the board of directors of SeaWeb. Sea lice research has also been reported in Conservation Biology, a journal created by the Packard foundation.

Scientists and experts have noted serious flaws in the sea lice research by Alexandra Morton and her colleagues: lack of adequate baseline data, selective use (“cherry-picking”) of data, flawed assumptions, selective and inaccurate reporting, and unsubstantiated claims.

In view of the serious flaws noted by senior scientists, it does NOT appear to me that sea lice research was published and publicized on the basis of scientific merit. It does appear to me that bad press about sea lice is part of a sophisticated marketing campaign to prop up demand for Alaskan fish - in the name of science and conservation. The peer-review process appears to me to have failed in the sense that unsubstantiated and false claims were not nipped in the bud.

Flouting the integrity of science to sway market share should not be tolerated nor ignored - least of all when the science is paid for with public funds. Surely Canadian tax-payers don't want public funds designated for scientific research to be used to discredit an important Canadian industry on false premises, in favor of a foreign competitor.

Vivian Krause

In response to Vivian Krause and her submission of scientific evidence, specifically her alleged salmon return numbers for areas in the Broughton Archipelago. Well readers you can take historic return counts for salmon and throw them right in the garbage can. These numbers are meaningless and equate more to guesses. If anyone claims that these historic so called wild salmon return counts are valid, they are simply lying.
What we can be certain of is that we use to have a prosperous commercial salmon fleet and now we don't. Commercial wild salmon harvests have only been declining dramatically which is the only and closest measure to the health of salmon returns on the BC coast.
I remember while Scuba diving and filming video of salmon spawning in the Leiner River( the largest river in the Tahsis Inlet)in JUNE during the early 90's. I was surprised and showed the video to local DFO officers whose only explanation was "HUH". Pink salmon spawning in June?
Further questioned why they didn't know and "Just how do you count salmon returns?"
The answer was sometimes they spend a couple of hours on any given spawning day maybe physically counting fish or maybe flying up a river or creek with a helicopter and counting salmon( how anyone can tell what species of salmon are from a helicopter is laughable). What it all boils down to is what resources and how much money has been spent to actually determine salmon returns on the thousands of creeks and rivers has been negligible and certainly not in any way valid data. So Vivian, basing your argument on past records of pink salmon returns is a load we can all do without.

Ken Paisley

Vivian Krause, former development officer for Nutreco, former owner of Marine Harvest, the company against which Alexandra Morton launched s private prosecution, is not a disinterested party in this discussion. She has been engaged in an active role raising arguments against Ms. Morton and others who are troubled by the unregulated operations of open net fish farms.

She is perfectly entitled to do so but should disclose her entire professional resume.

Ms. Krause, when you call yourself an ex fish-farmer, were you employed on the water in production of fish or as a person promoting business for what was then the world's largest fish farmer and now calls itself the largest supplier of manufactured animal feeds, much of it for fish farming?

I might as well add my words are only those of an interested citizen. I have never earned a dime from any element of aquaculture. I was a coastal kid who fished for salmon from an 8 foot home-built plywood punt. I remember the days of plentiful fish along the whole southern coast. I also remember the pulp mills and industries that polluted the air and the ocean and the loggers who destroyed stream beds.

I've seen the well paid corporate dissemblers claim that all is well when it is not. When the flacks start hurling matter, keep your heads down.

I believe in trends. If we don't change direction, we will end up where we are headed. And friends, we are headed toward disaster. The time to change is now.


Vivian's entire resume is made public on her blog. So there are no secrets. Regardless of her past, her points are valid and should be considered in the discussion. You are quick to attack anyone that might have some fact that disagrees with your emotion.

You on the other hand are a bit of a mistery?? But you sure do post quite a bit of comments on farmed salmon stuff. And by your comments (which you admit are "ambarassing"), clearly show that you are perhaps in love with a rich American acting as a poor, lonely citizen.

You are quoted as saying "You rock Alexandra Morton..We ARE going to win this war.
Order of Canada..Greatest Canadian..Hero..You are all those things."

Easy Norm. Down boy, down.

Hi Norm;

You quote the folowing;

" . . . farmed salmon, shrimp, and other carnivorous species often take more out of the oceans than they keep in...nearly two pounds of wild fish are required for every pound of farmed fish raised on processed meal."

Whether this is accurate or not is not my point. What is your thoughts on the ranched salmon that are grown in places like Asia and Alaska? I'm quite sure that 5 billion ranched salmon consume more wild fish than about 300 million farmed salmon. Knowing that, isn't it weird than David Suzuki and Daniel Pauly and Jean Michel Cousteau tell us to only consume Alaska (mostly ranched) salmon that are the highest consumers of fish meal?? Isn't it even weirder that all of the above mentioned men are paid by Alaska salmon interests?

Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmm....

"You are quoted as saying "You rock Alexandra Morton..We ARE going to win this war.
Order of Canada..Greatest Canadian..Hero..You are all those things."

Oh really? And where did I say that?

Odd that you'd rather make up stuff than debate facts.

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