How DFO bureaucrats misled the people of BC about salmon farming.

When the first sea lice epidemic on juvenile wild Pacific salmon was observed in 2001, in an area now known as the Broughton Archipelago (back then the name used by residents was simply “the mainland”), DFO asked one of its ecologists to estimate the source of the lice. He concluded that the lice were coming from the salmon farms. He was never heard from again. Since then, DFO hasn't let any of its ecologists near the salmon farming issues. The DFO scientists tasked with thinking about salmon aquaculture are mostly fish pathologists, for whom salmon farming is a full employment program.Ecology is one of the few branches of science that understands immediately why a salmon farm is an unintended pathogen culture facility: Farmed salmon in a sea-cage are protected from predators, which are nature's disease control agents and are non-specific with regard to disease. Farmed salmon are fed daily so they do not have to exert themselves to survive; but they are not protected from parasites and pathogens, which pass freely through the mesh of the cage on tidal currents. The crowding in the cage enhances disease transmission, and being fed every day allows diseased farm fish to live much longer than they would have survived in the wild. The pathogens and parasites shed by diseased farm fish pass freely out through the mesh of the cage. The elevated levels of pathogens and parasites in the surrounding waters cause disease levels to increase in sympatric wild salmon populations. Wild salmon weakened by disease experience increased mortality because they are less able to compete for prey, less able to escape from predators and less resistant to opportunistic infections. Juvenile wild salmon, whose out-migration from their natal rivers puts them in close proximity to salmon farms, are particularly vulnerable to disease because of their small size and immature immune systems.Sea lice, bacterial kidney disease, piscine orthoreovirus, tenacibaculum – nature has an inexhaustible supply of pathogens and parasites, but the basic mechanism outlined above is the same for all of them.A dictum often attributed to the novelist Upton Sinclair is that if a man's job depends on his not understanding something, you can be certain that he will fail to understand it. By carefully keeping its ecologists far from salmon farming, DFO bureaucrats, with the aid of a few senior scientists loyal to the agency, created a sort of “parallel universe” in which farmed salmon could not possibly be responsible for the declines in wild salmon.If it were not a national tragedy for Canada, the salmon aquaculture controversy in BC would be ludicrous. Among ecologists, it has been ludicrous since it began, over two decades ago.Neil Frazer was born in Comox on Vancouver Island in 1948. Neil earned an engineering degree from the University of British Columbia, and a PhD in geophysics from Princeton University. He is currently a professor of geophysics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In Hawaii, a kayak is his vessel, but for the past ten summers Neil has used small open motorboats to explore the outer coasts and the inlets from Puget Sound to Glacier Bay. Neil lives in Kailua, Hawaii with his wife and their three teenage children.