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Province agrees to make fish farm audits public

Biologist Alexandra Morton is applauding the provincial government for making public audits of salmon farms, which include data on dead and diseased fish.

Provincial lawyers at the Cohen Commission said yesterday the audits would be made available, a reversal from government's position last week that the release of these audits would not be in the public interest.

The lawyer for a coalition of environmental groups represented at the inquiry, including the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society and the Raincoast Research Society, argued that it was unacceptable to keep audit data secret at a public inquiry.

Kristi Miller, who works in molecular genetics for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, created a stir at the inquiry last week when she testified that a parvovirus "could be the smoking gun" behind the disappearance of millions of Fraser River sockeye in 2009. (Miller also testified that she was instructed not to talk to the media about her research.)

Miller told the inquiry it is unclear whether fish farms are linked to this parvovirus but said salmon farmers recently agreed to let her start testing for it at their facilities.

SFU biologist Dr. Larry Dill, a researcher hired by the commission, testified yesterday that large numbers of fish being farmed leads to bio-magnification, where more virulent strains of pathogens can evolve.

This week until Sept. 8 the inquiry is focused on the role of salmon farms in the decline of wild stocks. The Wilderness Committee has partnered with to provide a live feed of the hearings, available here.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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