Friday, July 2, 2010

Government hiding information and failing to protect Wild Salmon - at the same time!

The government's decision to hide information about the sea lice infestation in and around the province’s fish farms is more evidence of both their failure to protect wild salmon, and their failure to follow Freedom of Information requirements.

Both Ecojustice and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation have asked the government to provide sea lice infestation records from January 2004 - March 2010.

But the BC Liberal government is denying their request despite the fact that the government just lost a six year battle to conceal 2002-03 sea lice infestation records from the public.

Dr. Alexandra Morton, an expert in sea lice who has studied wild salmon for years in the Broughton Archipelago says: “Hiding disease reports certainly raises the question: what don’t they want us to know. The only Fraser sockeye in collapse are those migrating past salmon feedlots."

It is clear that wild salmon need improved protection from human-caused impacts. And I believe strongly that the best way to protect jobs on the coast - in tourism, commercial fishing and aquaculture - is to protect the environment that sustains these activities.

We can become a world leader in sustainable aquaculture and create new green jobs while opening up markets to a product British Columbians can be proud of.

But for that we will need this government to have a change of heart - or we need a new government.

I applaud MLA Doug Routley, the New Democrat Critic for Citizens' Services for raising the issue of transparency and accountability.

He points out that the Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner has already ordered the B.C. Liberal government to release this information for a different year. By fighting against the public’s right to know, the B.C. Liberal government is wasting time and money. The government should be serving the people of this province, not shielding industry from public scrutiny.

During the spring sitting of the legislature, the New Democrat opposition introduced The Open Government Act to close loopholes in the province’s FOI legislation and prevent the government from waging time-consuming and costly battles against the public’s right to access information.

In 2007, the bi-partisan Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture recommended that the salmon farming industry be transitioned to closed-containment within five years. The B.C. Liberal government ignored this and more than 50 other recommendations, including transparent disease reporting, despite ongoing concerns about theimpact of fish farms on wild salmon and other species.

If the B.C. government had implemented the recommendations of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, we would be well on our way to showing the world that it is possible to have a thriving aquaculture industry that provides green jobs with a light environmental footprint.

I am fighting for an environmental plan that respects communities, creates green jobs, offers families positive choices and commits to concrete action to protect species at risk.

I call on Minister Thompson to do the right thing: show that you are committed to working transparently and help improve the protections for our desperately vulnerable wild salmon. Listen to the Courts of B.C. and release the documents now!


Lana Popham, MLA Saanich South