By Damien Gillis
Common Sense Canadian
Morton and her team have reviewed over 500,000 documents submitted to the Cohen Commission into disappearing Fraser sockeye over the past year and she would have presented her conclusions to the public sooner, were it not for a confidentiality undertaking she and other Inquiry participants were forced to sign. But as of this week, much of the key evidence upon which Morton is basing her allegations has been officially entered into the record at the Commission and is thus now public.
The final piece fell into place when counsel representing the Clark Government backed down from its opposition to allowing a batch of fish farm disease databases from being entered into the record. The Province’s lawyer had made the argument that concealing information from the public was somehow actually in the public interest. But Monday, following a wave of public protest and negative media, Premier Christy Clark backed down and the records became public.
For instance, the Harrison sockeye run, which migrates out to sea via the Strait of Juan de Fuca – around the Southern tip of Vancouver Island, thus avoiding all the fish farms – is the one Fraser run that has been experiencing above average returns throughout the past two decades, while all other stocks have plummeted.
As Fraser sockeye nosedived throughout the 1990s and 2000s, DFO apparently became so concerned it asked Dr. Kristi Miller – head of Molecular Genetics at the Department’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo – to investigate. Miller applied revolutionary genomics research to the mystery and came up with some startling findings – the subject of great curiosity of late amongst the media and public, heightened by the Harper Government’srefusal to let her speak publicly about her work.
Miller discovered a “genomic signature” (a sort of genetic fingerprint) in sockeye that were dying in the river before they had a chance to spawn. Upon closer study of the fish and their symptoms, she concluded whatever disease was killing them and leaving its signature was strikingly similar to a virus that was ravaging farmed Chinook salmon in the late 80s and early 90s. This disease was being studied by one Dr. Michael Kent, who appeared as an expert scientist at the Cohen Commission last week just prior to Dr. Miller.
Kent labelled this mystery disease “Plasmycytoid Leukemia” at the time, while the fish farm industry called it “marine anemia”. Recently, Kent has been backing away from his work on the subject, which has complicated things for Miller.
But several key things jump out of this newly public data for Morton – the first being the fact these Chinook farms were located on the narrow Fraser sockeye migratory route through a maze of islands near Campbell River.
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