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Recently some of our internal meeting minutes from a routine monthly meeting were accidentally posted online on Mainstream Canada's website.
Since then, some individuals have taken them out of context and misrepresented them.
The meeting referenced in the minutes was a teleconference between our company's divisions in Norway, Chile and Canada, whose representatives talk regularly to provide each other with updates on activities in their countries. The topics in the minutes are nothing the public has not already been made aware of through news reports about our company and interviews with our representatives in the past year.
However, since several individuals have been using the minutes to make unfounded claims about salmon farming and take things out of context, we want to take the opportunity to address this issue.
The minutes included the following paragraph:
Staniford has been twittering about Siri Vike and the article on the ISA virus and how it originated from Norway. After a lengthy process with complaints that the research was not ethically valid, the result was out last week, and deemed not unethical. As this is very sensitive in BC we have to be careful what is commented upon in public in the time to come. We should avoid speculations about the situation in BC.
Siri's presentation will be in English and sent to MS Canada
An important message from us should be that we are proud of this research, we initiated and financed it because we want to build knowledge and seek improvement. We take measures based upon knowledge.
Most importantly, the research mentioned has to do with Chile and Norway, and nothing to do with Canada. However, salmon farming opponents are trying to see a conspiracy in the statement in the minutes that "We should avoid speculations about the situation in BC."
That statement means exactly what it says. Speculation - expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence - should be avoided. We should make statements based on good information and facts, not hearsay and speculative opinions.
In our monthly meetings we discuss how we can learn and improve from unfortunate situations, such as the ISA outbreak in Chile which devastated the industry there two years ago. As the paragraph above from our meeting minutes states, we are proud of research we recently funded and initiated which gives us new insight into the ISA virus. This research showed it is possible that ISA could have been transported from Norway to Chile through salmon eggs.
This research prompted a scientific disagreement and questions were raised about the quality of research and the ethics of the researchers. The complainant asked for an investigation which was done thoroughly by the National Commission for the Investigation of Scientific Misconduct in Norway. The commission found the researchers had not acted unethically and were not guilty of scientific misconduct.
The Mainstream group is proud of this research because we want to build knowledge and seek improvement in how we farm salmon so we can make good fact-based decisions and avoid speculation. This research can help us improve our operations around the world, including in B.C.
In the Atlantic Ocean, a virus exists naturally called Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA). It is present naturally in Norway and on the east coast of Canada, and has a distinct European strain and a distinct North American strain. The virus is lethal to farmed Atlantic salmon and an outbreak devastated the Chilean salmon farming industry in 2007 and 2008.
The virus has never been detected in B.C. but all salmon farming companies and government regulators check for it regularly. It is important to keep it out of B.C. because the virus would be devastating to our fish and our business.
Scientific laboratory studies have shown that the virus is not lethal to wild Pacific salmon. However, several individuals opposed to salmon farming are trying to speculate that the virus is already in B.C. waters and could be putting wild salmon at risk. They are actively seeking media attention for this theory.
We want to avoid speculation about the situation in B.C. because no matter what we say about this issue these individuals will take it as evidence to support their pre-conceived opinions.
However, as we have said several times before in the press, in B.C. we test regularly for the virus, and would be the first to notice its presence because it is lethal to farmed Atlantic salmon.
If it was here, we would know because our fish would be dying. And since this is something we obviously want to avoid, we take many steps to make sure the virus does not come to B.C.
An important part of preventing viruses and diseases is our broodstock program. Our fish come from our own stock and animal husbandry programs here in B.C. We have special fish we use to produce the salmon eggs we send to our hatcheries, where they are grown to smolt size and then transferred to ocean pens to grow to harvest size. These fish produce hundreds of millions of eggs and are carefully chosen for their health. It's critical that we keep these fish healthy and disease-free. There is no ISA present in our broodstock.
In the past, before our broodstock programs were fully established, we sometimes imported eggs to supplement our hatcheries. However, these imports have been infrequent and in small numbers, and have been strictly monitored by authorities in the country of origin before they are exported, and by the federal fisheries ministry here to make sure they entered Canada free of diseases and viruses.
As well, our fish health is constantly monitored from egg to harvest. If there were signs of exotic diseases such as ISA we would notice. Because ISA could have such a huge negative impact on our fish and business, we take many steps to monitor for its presence.
Mainstream Canada is the second-largest grower of farmed salmon in British Columbia. Our 27 farm sites are located on the west and east coasts of Vancouver Island, where we grow Atlantic salmon under some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world.
Our focus is sustainable aquaculture. Our goal is to balance environmental, social and economic impacts with a long-term commitment to continual improvement.
Please contact Grant Warkentin, communications officer, with any further questions at email@example.com or 250-286-0022 ext 247.