Fraser River sockeye salmon

Craig McCulloch

The two year long Canadian inquiry into disappearing sockeye salmon has finally been released.  In the end, the report didn't pinpoint one cause for the collapse, but fish farms and Canada’s fisheries department was singled out for criticism.

Craig McCulloch / KPLU

Widespread concerns that Canadian officials are silencing scientists have not been assuaged by a detailed government response to the accusations. The battle over “muzzling” Canadian scientists has been broiling for months after it was revealed that a virus deadly to salmon might have been discovered in salmon returning to the Fraser River.

The January response crafted by the Canadian government and submitted to the Cohen Commission after three days of hearings in December absolved officials for not reporting “suspected detection” of Infectious Salmon Anemia, or ISA, in waters off the Pacific Northwest.

Craig McCulloch / KPLU

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A Canadian scientist testifying in front of a commission on the collapse of the Fraser River salmon fishery says that tests done as far back as 2002 did find indicators of the Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus in pacific salmon and that her lab had discovered evidence of the virus from fish gathered in 1986.

Dr Kristi Miller, Head of Molecular Genetics in Nanaimo for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean, testified in Vancouver, B.C., that Canada's food inspection agency was not happy with her doing the tests.  

She said there was a general feeling she should not be looking at viruses or diseases. She was fearful that all samples would be taken from her lab and was also very concerned that samples from her genomics program, also based in the lab, would be removed.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr

Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling for stronger communication between American and Canadian officials following the disclosure that Canada failed to reveal the results of tests that appear to show the presence of a potentially deadly salmon virus nearly a decade before a salmon-virus scare this fall.

This is the second time that Canadian officials have been accused of muffling a scientist’s findings concerning viruses and salmon.

Chris Pike / Flickr

Sockeye salmon returning to Canada this year will be tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for radiation contamination that might be picked up in the North Pacific from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

However, Washington state officials have no plans to test salmon specifically for radiation related to the Japanese disaster because earlier environmental testing showed so few signs of radiation that current levels in fish, if any, would be "undetectable," a spokesperson for the Department of Health said.

Associated Press

Government officials in Ottawa are getting heat for apparently muzzling a scientist whose study discovered that a viral infection – which has been referred to as "salmon leukemia" – may be the cause of salmon stocks crashing off Canada’s west coast.

The Vancouver Sun reported that the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped the study’s lead scientist “from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.”

The Canadian government told the Postmedia News, which wrote the story, that scientist Kristi Miller has not been permitted to talk about her work because she is expected to testify later this summer before a commission looking into the decline of the Frazer River sockeye salmon.