If you can’t win the scientific argument, suppress it
Evidence on effect of sea lice heavily contested
They say that the Marine Institute’s own figures show that the percentage of salmon killed by sea lice is not 1 per cent but 33 per cent. This is serious stuff. If policymakers and citizens can’t rely on scientific data, how can decisions be based on evidence?
The second disturbing development is the apparent suppression of awkward views within the State apparatus itself. The issue here is that there is a clear split between two arms of the State. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAFF) is at odds on this issue with the Department of Natural Resources and, specifically, with one of its agencies, Inland Fisheries Ireland. IFI is responsible for wild salmon and trout stocks and does not buy the line that sea lice infestations are harmless.
In 2010, the European Commission, which was conducting an investigation into sea lice and salmon farms asked the department of fisheries for the views of IFI. According to documents obtained by Friends of the Irish Environment from the commission, what happened next is startling. IFI presented a report to the department of fisheries in October 2010. It was critical of the Marine Institute’s monitoring of sea lice in fish farms and reiterated concerns about the effects on wild stocks.
The staggering thing is that DAFF declined to pass this report from a State agency to the commission, which had specifically requested it.
It wrote to
IFI’s parent department to say that “transmission of your Department’s observations to the Commission would not only be misleading but would also cause confusion in the public mind regarding sea lice controls and possibly undermine the State’s regulatory system. For these reasons I would ask you to withdraw the formal observations of your Department and to support the observations supplied to the Commission by DAFF.”
(The EU commissioner for the environment Janez Potocnik has told Nessa Childers MEP that he is now seeking a copy of the report.)
Leave aside the substantive questions about fish farms and what we have here is a dreadful way of making public policy: highly dubious figures and demands that contrary views not be expressed. Memories of the previous successes we’ve had with these approaches should be enough to put you off your dinner.