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Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday and the sustainability joke

I'm an expat American. When I see the media coverage of what has come to be called "Black Friday", part of me becomes even more expat.

I don't want it to be this way, but I just don't understand that aspect of my country. I never have. Now, I'm no saint - I've wandered my share of malls, eaten my share of fast food. But I have never, ever been even remotely comfortable with America's mass consumption culture. And now, when I go back, I feel like a foreigner, like a visitor in a country run by a dictatorship.

Perhaps, if you've never been to the States, you may question the media reports. Can Americans really be that rabid about consuming stuff?

The answer is simple. Yes. Yes they are. Absolutely and without question.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Icy brinicle finger of death video and what warming oceans hold for fisheries

So it's almost the end of November. If you live in the northern half of the northern hemisphere you've probably already sealed your windows, piled a few more blankets on your bed and paid your gas bill in an attempt to keep the icy hand of winter from creeping into your house and freezing you where you sleep. No? Well maybe that's just my house. At any rate, this is occasionally the fate of sea creatures living beneath the ice of the Antarctic, as you can see for yourself in this incredible time-lapse video from the clever folks at the BBC.

The BBC assures us that this is a production of BBC Nature rather than their special effects department

In contrast to this unusual phenomenon, or rather in conjunction with it, is the ongoing warming of our seas as the result of Climate Change. With only 30 shopping days left until Christmas, warming of the world's oceans may not be at the forefront of your mind. But this gradual change in temperature poses a far greater threat to marine life around the globe than icy destruction you just witnessed above.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ISA test results inconclusive

The BC Salmon Farmers are crowing over today’s media conference announcing the results of further testing for the ISA virus in Pacific salmon. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the salmon farming industry’s public relations division – aka DFO Aquaculture Branch – tried their best to sound neutral and unbiased but were clearly pleased to report their findings to date. But not so fast (spin) doctors.
If you listened to the first few minutes of the media conference call there was nothing but good news. According to Dr. Con Kiley, Director of National Aquatic Animal Health with CFIA, there are no confirmed cases of ISA in either wild or farmed salmon in BC, all the samples received were thoroughly tested, all tests were negative and basically, we can all relax. There is no cause for concern.

That would be great news. ISA in the Pacific ocean could have tragic and truly devastating consequences if the disease were to mutate or prove to be virulent. Today’s announcement from the CFIA, DFO and the BC government was very reassuring – up to about the 10 minute mark.

I started getting very worried again when Kiley noted that “these supplementary results must be considered inconclusive because of the poor quality of the samples.” Say what? Inconclusive?

The spin-doctoring started seriously unravelling when a reporter from the Seattle Times asked if Canadian government officials would be willing to share raw samples with US researchers if they wanted to do their own testing (audio credit: Hmmm – seems our friends to the south are as suspicious of DFO and CFIA’s cosy partnership with the fish farming industry as Canadians are.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Environment Canada lays charges against east-coast salmon farming operation

There are some things that we all know not to do. You don't tug on Superman’s cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't reveal to the world that the Lone Ranger has poorly maintained eyebrows by pulling off his mask.

And you do not poison lobsters in the Bay of Fundy.

This should be common sense. That is the heart of lobster country, after all. Poisoning lobsters out there would be like knocking over a really long row of Harleys at a biker rally, because:

- People are going to notice, and
- There will be consequences

An east-coast salmon farming company is learning this the hard way, after allegedly releasing into the water an illegal pesticide, resulting in lobster deaths.

Environment Canada has charged Kelly Cove Salmon (a division of New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture), Cooke’s CEO, and two managers with 11 counts each of ‘depositing a substance deleterious to fish into fish-bearing water’, which is a violation of Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. The deleterious substance in question was a pesticide based on a substance called cypermethrin. Cypermethrin is “highly acutely toxic” to aquatic organisms, and as such cannot be applied directly to aquatic environments in Canada.