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Fabian DawsonFearing that Canadian science will drown out their claims, the anti-fish farm lobby has embarked on a campaign to discredit upcoming studies by the government to develop better aquaculture standards.

Taking the cue from Twitter-in-chief Donald Trump, who constantly tells his core supporters not to believe any official investigation about him, the activists’ campaign is ratcheting up its anti-government rhetoric to oppose critical thinking.

They want their imagination of what could happen rather than what is happening on fish farms to guide policy.

One recent missive to disparage the efforts of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is authored by Stan Proboszcz of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, which gets money from foreign sources to shut down a local sustainable industry.

He reckons that there is “political and industrial interference that continues to influence fisheries science advice at the federal level.”

While questioning the integrity of DFO in a lengthy diatribe, Proboszcz ignores the social consequences and economic morality of accepting money from foreign funders to spread the anti-Canadian fish farm myths.

Another anti-fish farm activist spreading the conspiracy theory that the aquaculture industry has bought government is Indigenous school teacher Ernest Alfred.

Supported once again by local eco-militants armed with foreign cash, Alfred has ingeniously tied the fish farming discourse into treaty claims, which seems to be his group’s primary objective.

He’s adamant that there can be no genuine reconciliation with First Nations while fish farms operate on B.C.’s coast because government is suspect and helps the industry.

Other First Nations leaders, who prefer to work towards a shared future rather than dwell on a disturbed past, have described this tactic as “redwashing,” i.e. where environmental groups use aboriginal communities to advance agendas at the detriment of First Nations prosperity.

Then we have the likes of David Suzuki, who in a debate with Marine Harvest chief executive officer Alf-Helge Aarskog that was published in the Vancouver Sun, says: “It’s very clear that DFO is acting like a cheerleader for the salmon farming industry and they have totally ignored their responsibility to protect the wild salmon.”

But then Suzuki goes on to say, “The other problem is we haven’t done the science.”

They and others ignore the central recommendation of the Cohen Commission, which called for more scientific studies because it could not find a “smoking gun” for the decline of wild salmon stocks on B.C.’s coast.

All of them don’t want you to pay any heed to:

  • DFO’s advisory process to support public engagement and consultation on issues related to aquaculture in BC;
  • calls for a federal aquaculture act that would establish national environmental standards, clarify industry responsibilities and codify a proud legacy of environmental stewardship;
  • a B.C. government review of aquaculture operations following a report that found the public servants and scientists at the province’s Animal Health Centre are operating without any conflicts of interest, as purported by the anti-fish farm lobby;
  • the federal government’s Independent Expert Panel on Aquaculture Science, led by Canada’s chief science adviser, Dr. Mona Nemer.

So why is the anti-fish farm lobby so afraid of these studies and reviews?

Why are they more interested in fuelling falsehoods than fostering fact?

Because they only want you to hear what they want you to hear.

Like Trump, they know fully well that the politics of fear is easier to manipulate than the realities of science.

And like Trump, they want to tarnish the messenger, hoping the message will also be tarnished.

Fabian Dawson, a former deputy editor at The Province and Vancouver Sun, is editor of, a website that promotes the science around aquaculture.

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