Craig Orr’s Letter to the Editor of the Courier-Islander: Muzzling and Pursuing the Truth

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Watershed Watch Executive Director, Craig Orr, addresses the need for government policies that promote sound science and free speech in his letter to the editor of the Courier-Islander Muzzling and Pursuing the Truth.

Muzzling and Pursuing the Truth

Re: Muzzling and the tireless task of uncovering the truth.

Freedom of speech is something we take for granted in Canada, but the playing field is decidedly uneven when it comes to government scientists.

Though the lead author of a paper in Science which uncovered new information on mortality related signatures in a keystone species of Pacific salmon, Dr. Kristi Miller was not allowed to discuss her research with the media or at key sockeye meetings. This is the main point, not whether she could talk with colleagues, and it is a hugely disturbing blow to both science and freedom of expression seemingly the norm with governments more concerned with controlling messages and protecting policies than in promoting sound science and free speech.

Just this week another senior scientist in Environment Canada published a seminal paper in a top journal on the evidence he had helped collect over 25 years, showing huge holes in our ozone layer.

Of course, he was not allowed to speak to the media. Who knows, there may have been some uncomfortable questions on climate change and government policy.

Seems there are exception clauses, though. When Dr. Marty published a paper at the end of 2010 purporting to show that all previous research on sea lice impacts was flawed and that lice had no negative impacts on wild fish, he was widely quoted in the media. Among other things, he criticized ‘alarmist’ attitudes, and the need to separate farmed and wild salmon, such as via closed containment technology (which, by the way, is not antiaquaculture as some wish you to believe).

Turns out though Marty’s analysis lacked the proper spatial and temporal controls and was shown to be flawed in a re-examination of the same data he used in his original analysis. The re-analysis, in the same journal, showed that lice epizootics were clearly linked to declines in salmon survival, as shown in many other papers.

Of course, the correction of Dr. Marty’s analysis and statements received scant media attention.

And so far, no public mea culpa or retraction of previous statements favouring the status quo.

Craig Orr, Ph.D. Watershed Watch Salmon Society


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