Salmon's on the Menu Tonight

November 14, 2011

Torah Kachur

Never trust a scientist with an agenda.


In a follow up to a story published last week - the possible cases of Infectious Salmon Anemia discovered throughout British Columbia were found not to be infected with a virus.



Science is supposed to be based on unbiased observations, scientists as chroniclers of nature with no leanings, biases or agendas, except science is done by humans.  We try our best - we use controls, double blind studies and expect peer review to tease apart what we want to see from what we really see.  It's the bias in science that gives us white-coat-wearing truth-seekers a bad rap; scientists funded by big oil shockingly denying climate change, deliberatly faking data to gain worldwide fame in the cloning race or simply not being able to accept your hypothesis is wrong.


But scientists are human, we are fallible even if we believe that what we observing is the truth.  Take Dr. Alexandra Morton, for example -  passionate anti-fish farming campaigner and also the person who first reported the cases of ISA a few weeks ago.  She is funded by the Raincoast Research Society, a site that campaigns for the health of the oceans and, perhaps justifiably, campaigns against any type of salmon farming.  She is a massive campaigner against salmon farming and unhealthy practices and has a long track record of protecting marine animals from large mammals to the iconic salmon.  Her passion is inspiring and her work speaks for itself, but this time she is wrong.


The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has states that some of the samples that were retested were largely degraded and therefore even their confirmation tests are possibly fallible.  But no record of the salmon virus has been found.  This isn't a win for the salmon farming industry although they can now breathe a little easier.  It is inevitable that parasites, salmon lice and other diseases will spread from the antibiotic soaked and feces filled pools of salmon farms into the wild populations, just maybe not this time.


The fish farming industry dodged a bullet with the DFO but their public reputation has suffered a blow.  Dr. Alexandra Morton can claim a subtle victory of making headlines again in protecting our oceans but the headlines now have to be rewritten.  Science cannot be done in a vacuum and we live in the real world with real passions and true belief that our version of the truth is the actual one.  Dr. Morton believes that salmon farms are wrong, a belief that may be scientifically supported and reasonable, however, there has to be evidence for it.  And that evidence has to come from unbiased observers of the wonderful world around us. 


Never trust a scientists with an agenda? 


We all have one.


Trust a governmental agency that allows independent labs in Norway to confirm it's tests?


The DFO also supports the seal hunt.



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