Scientific advice to Canada’s aquaculture policymakers is trustworthy, scientists assure Canadian public

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A group of scientists that advises Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on scientific studies has spoken following recent news reports that have cast aspersions on the integrity of their advice as well as that of the DFO.

“As scientists who have contributed to many peer-reviewed analyses on salmon conservation and farming for the DFO, we’re compelled to respond to prevent propagation of any misinformation. Canadians can trust the scientific facts and advice presented by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, the science evaluation body of the DFO,” said the scientists in the Globe & Mail opinion piece on Friday (May 27).

The scientists are from esteemed academic and research establishments across Canada. They comprise the secretariat (CSAS), which the DFO calls on when it identifies areas in which science advice is needed. “The CSAS provides a formal, transparent process for the delivery of science advice to the department’s decision makers,” the DFO stated on its website.

The group noted that providing scientific advice to politicians who are not trained in areas such as environmental and food-science issues can be challenging. It also said that while the facts of the science do not vary, how those facts are interpreted by different individuals could vary, and that’s when conflicts arise.

For instance, conservation scientists and activists have criticized the CSAS reports concerning the potential risk of pathogens from farmed salmon to wild salmon as “’unreliable’ because the reports did not support the activists’ claim that salmon farming poses significant harm to wild salmon,” the scientists wrote.

They assured the Canadian public that the scientific advice they provide to DFO is sound, objective and impartial. “The CSAS process does not selectively ignore some of the available science, as a form of bias,” they said.

Any advice they provide the DFO is vetted in peer reviews participated in by “representatives of DFO, other government departments, First Nations, stakeholders, academia, environmental non-government organizations, as well as international experts,” said the DFO on its website.

But the scientists acknowleged that while “the CSAS process is about as good as it gets when it comes to assembling available experts and facts,” there’s room to improve the process.

“Consequently, ministers charged with making decisions on the future of salmon aquaculture should trust the scientific facts that were presented in the recent CSAS reports,” they concluded.

Original opinion piece is here.