By Margaret Munro
………………………………….. Federal fisheries biologist Kristi Miller
VANCOUVER — Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada’s West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.
The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.
Science, one of the world’s top research journals, published Miller’s findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified “over 7,400” journalists worldwide about Miller’s “Suffering Salmon” study.
Science told Miller to “please feel free to speak with journalists.” It advised reporters to contact Diane Lake, a media officer with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, “to set up interviews with Dr. Miller.”
Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island.
The documents show major media outlets were soon lining up to speak with Miller, but the Privy Council Office said no to the interviews.
The Privy Council Office also nixed a Fisheries Department news release about Miller’s study, saying the release “was not very good, focused on salmon dying and not on the new science aspect,” according to documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act.
Miller is still not allowed to speak publicly about her discovery, and the Privy Council Office and Fisheries Department defend the way she has been silenced.
But observers say it is indefensible and more evidence of the way the government is undermining its scientists.
“There is no question in my mind it’s muzzling,” said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.
“When the lead author of a paper in Science is not permitted to speak about her work, that is suppression,” he said. “There is simply no ifs, ands or buts about that.”
The Harper government has tightened the leash on federal scientists, whose work is financed by taxpayers and is often of significant public interest — be it about fish stocks, air pollution or food safety.
Read more at Postmedia News
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