Thursday, August 25, 2011

Getting To The Heart Of The Cohen Commission's Matters


In case you missed it, Alexandra Morton is blogging the Cohen Commission's latest round of hearings which are trying to get to the bottom of the cause(s) of the decline in the Fraser River Sockeye.

Yesterday was Day 3 and Ms. Morton started her report like this:

"Dr. Kristi Miller took the stand today to finally explain what she knows about the health of the Fraser sockeye. The court room was filled to over-flowing. It is first time she has been able to speak to the public about what she knows about our fish.

Since 1995, so many Fraser sockeye are reaching the river but failing to spawn that today DFO has to figure out how many are going to die, before they can open a fishery. So in 2005 they tasked their scientist Dr. Miller to use genomic profiling to read the sockeye salmon cells to try and figure out why they are dying...."

What sets Ms. Morton's reportage apart from most of the 'he said/she said' stuff you are getting in the CorpMedia is the fact that she revels in the details and makes a real effort to get to the heart of the matter.

Like, say, the following excerpts, also based on yesterday's testimony:

"....Genomic profiling reads 10,000s of switches that turn on/off in cells in response to starvation, toxic blooms, high water temperature, good feeding etc. When Miller read the cells of the Fraser sockeye she found all the ones that were dying had very similar genomic signatures. This suggested they were dying of the same thing. The cellular switches that were turned on and off were ones that respond to viruses. No one expected this.


Both the physical condition of the sockeye and their "unhealthy" genomic profile led her to a mystery illness that appeared in Chinook salmon farms in 1992 on the Fraser sockeye migration route. While it was given the name "Plasmacytoid Leukemia" by Dr. Kent (who was on the stand yesterday,) and he called it a retrovirus in his many scientific papers written in the 1990s, he told us yesterday that really, he was never actually sure that it was a virus. He never took the final step with his research to actually visualize, culture and sequence it. He did find sockeye could be infected with it and that it was widespread. His colleague Dr. Craig Stephens, also on the stand yesterday wrote in a scientific paper:


....In 2007, faced with evidence that millions of sockeye were dying of a virus, Miller reviewed what was known about the farm salmon epidemic and found it closely resembled what the sockeye are dying of.


...We learned today that although strong similarities exist between the farm salmon disease and the condition of the sockeye, Miller has been unable to test farm salmon. But, she said, a couple of weeks ago the salmon farming industry decided to cooperate! No, she has still not been able to speak to the farm vets and begin the process of setting up the protocol. That was not going to happen until after the Inquiry...."

There is much more than that there for each day so far, with more to come I'm sure.

So bookmark Ms. Morton's blog, or watch for new reports to pop-up on the side-bar scroll to the left, and then go take the five-eight minutes it takes to read and understand each post.

Because it's long form blogging very much worth reading.

And, regardless your opinion of Ms. Morton's life work or POV, it's stuff that, in my opinion, you won't get anywhere else


Regarding this 'he said/she said' business that is pretty much all you are hearing amongst the din of the CorpMedia wurlitzer that must....have....the two-headed hydra that is adversarial 'controversy' - It is important to remember, as I have noted in other contexts before, that there is a many-runged ladder in the peer-review publishing world....And the journal where Dr. Miller published her recent findings (i.e. 'Science') that she was not allowed to comment on publicly prior to yesterday's Commision appearance, sits on the very top rung of that ladder....What does that really mean?....Well, at the very least, it means that the great majority of the time the quality of the peer review, and the expertise of the peers doing the reviewing, really is top drawer...OK?



Anonymous said...

Farmed Salmon Confidential (Part 1) and (Part 2) at The Common Sense Canadian

What does the salmon industry know, when did they know it, and is there any relationship to the situation of infected farmed salmon in Chile? If all the BC farmed salmon are healthy, then why did the BC Salmon Farmers Association submit that "Irreparable damage will occur to the reputations and economic interests of the BCSFA’s member companies and their shareholders." if disease data were publicly disclosed?

RossK said...

Thanks for pointing us towards this additional information Anon.

And for formulating your questions.