Suzuki’s prediction flounders on flaky sea lice tales

In the now you see it, now you don’t department … Vancouver investigative journalist Vivian Krause, who has done excellent work following some highly questionable money-trails from high-powered US foundations to Canadian environmental lobby groups, reports in the May 31 Financial Post on some missing web pages, missing sea lice and – contrary to David Suzuki’s dire predictions – flourishing salmon:

The case of the missing sea lice

For more than a decade, the David Suzuki Foundation has run an aggressive campaign against farmed salmon. “It’s poison!” David Suzuki told a conference in Toronto. “Phone your local hospitals and find out if farmed salmon is served to patients,” said a brochure from his foundation.

The Suzuki Foundation distributed a brochure titled Why You Shouldn’t Eat Farmed Salmon. It features David Suzuki’s photo prominently on the front page. Since last February, however, that brochure — along with 20 press releases and Web pages about salmon farming — have been quietly removed from the foundation’s website. Gone.

[…]

Internet archives show that last February, 16 press releases and Web pages about salmon farming were removed merely hours after I put on my blog a detailed letter to David Suzuki in which I asked questions about the funding and scientific weakness of the Suzuki Foundation’s position.

[…]

Even before sea lice research began, the David Suzuki Foundation claimed that sea lice from salmon farms had decimated wild pink salmon, leading to an “ecological disaster.”

One of the biggest problems with the alarm over sea lice is that it is at odds with the excellent returns of wild salmon in recent years. In 2000, despite 13 years of salmon farming in the vicinity, the return of wild pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago was the highest on record since the 1950s. The Broughton is ground zero in B.C.’s salmon-farming controversy. In 2009, in the very same area where extinction due to sea lice was predicted, wild pink salmon returns were so good that commercial fishing took place. In 2010, the return of Fraser sockeye was the best in nearly 100 years.

[…]

The alleged danger of “farm-origin” sea lice is the basis of “Ingredients for Extinction,” the tag line of a boycott campaign by the David Suzuki Foundation and other environmental groups. This campaign sent more than 30,000 faxes to tell the CEO of Safeway to stop selling farmed salmon.

The David Suzuki Foundation has ­described its sea lice research as ­undeniable, compelling, irrefutable and proof.[emphasis added -hro]

Why is it that these self-appointed merchants of doom and gloom are compelled to debase the English language with their overwrought hyperbole?! Particularly when they know that their claims are so far from the truth. Not to mention far from being based on evidence. In a pattern that rings a rather familiar bell, as Krause notes:

The David Suzuki Foundation ­reported, “up to 95% of wild juvenile pink and chum salmon are dying from sea lice.” A huge number. But mortality in the wild was never measured and reported. Never. Hypothetical mortality estimates were computer-generated at that great salmon think-tank, the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Alberta. The published mortality prediction was actually estimated at between 9% and 95%. The David Suzuki Foundation selectively highlighted the prediction of up to 95% mortality, but downplayed the fact that the study suggested that mortality could be as low as 9% or even lower. [emphasis added -hro]

It will come as no surprise that Krause also reports that the Suzuki Foundation’s “undeniable, compelling, irrefutable” research was published in the illustrious (peer-reviewed, natch) journal Science – the source of many a citation in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 4th Assessment Report. Krause concludes:

Given that for more than 10 years, the David Suzuki Foundation has played a leading role in fostering the opinion that sea lice from salmon farms are a serious threat to wild salmon, it is not good enough for the foundation to simply and quietly remove the press releases that started the whole sea lice controversy in the first place.

My hope is that David Suzuki is big enough to admit that contrary to his foundation’s claims that were broadcast far and wide, its sea lice research never did show that sea lice originating from salmon farms cause high levels of mortality among juvenile salmon in the wild.

An admirable hope, Ms. Krause; but somehow I doubt that David Suzuki, fruit-fly expert and flogger of fishy stories galore is likely to change – no matter how much he flounders.

One thought on “Suzuki’s prediction flounders on flaky sea lice tales

  1. Pingback: David Suzuki is a Drama Queen « NoFrakkingConsensus

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