Bad apples in the bureacratic barrel: "prestige" before evidence...

Why hardly anyone is listening: Muzzled scientists/ Information supression

First things first. In Canada we are blessed with some of the best aquatic researchers into hydro impacts in the world. Check out the role of Canada's Freshwater Institute in Assessing Canadian Hydro "Developments" to see what I mean.

Both the Freshwater Institute and the Canada Centre for Inland Waters are run by - and policed by - Canada's federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans: DFO. August '97 reports in the Ottawa Citizen detail the existance of a departmental disciplinary manual forbidding criticism by employees.

Because you're unlikely to hear it from DFO for the reasons that follow ;) I'll pass this on to those of you who haven't seen it yet. More from the good but muzzled folks at Freshwater... paid for in part by your tax dollars [if you're Canadian].

"Large-scale impacts of hydroelectric development", D.M. Rosenberg, et al (1997)Environmental Reviews 5: 27-54. This is one hot paper.

POLITICS vs SCIENCE: DFO vs. the media and scientists

Now for the nitty gritty potentially very incriminating stuff... Something smells mighty fishy in DFO's bureaucracy! Why? Because DFO bureaucrats are currently sueing Jeffery Hutchings, Carl Walters, and Richard L. Haedrich, the scientists who published a paper calling into question the wisdom of letting political hacks make scientific management decisions.

Not just any paper, mind - but rather one in one of the world's most respected aquatic science journals ... DFO's own Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, issue number...54. and titled Is Scientific Inquiry Incompatible with Government Information Control?.

DFO bureaucrats are sueing the newspaper that broke the story on the journal paper. Yep - seems DFO bureaucrats are trying to put libel chill back into DFO scientists - and I guess journalists, too - by sueing Ottawa Citizen over their investigative coverage following Hutchings, Walters and Haedrich's (1997) above-mentioned paper in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences: 54:1198-1210. All because the Citizen and Hutchings et al had the backbone to not back down in the face of DFO's heavyhanded threat to sue if they didn't print retractions.

Imagine that: a retraction of a story covering a scientific journal paper! Can you say information supression? Just who do Scott Anderson and Bill Rowat, the bureaucrats in question, think they are?

In some ways it's darkly amusing. Hutchings et al talk about the department's muzzling helping to collapse the Atlantic cod stocks; they also address "Pacific salmon production in British Columbia: the Kemano Completion Project". They pinpoint "bureaucratic interference in the interpretation and dissemination of scientific research". In suing them, DFO seem to be proving Hutchings et al's point!

Many scientists banded together to pen a manifesto supporting Hutchings et al's call for DFO to step back to a hands off approach to managing stocks. Back to the Fisheries Board of Canada.

Are the DFO bureaucrats filing suit trying to hide something? Their motivation for sueing raises suspicions in my mind... what have they got to hide? This could well be cause for an investigation into just who was responsible for ignoring scientists warnings concerning factors like altered freshwater flow and dams that effect fish stocks. The data is in if DFO bureaucrats would get off their highhorses and get their heads dislodged from somewhere unmentionable! ;) It's not like Hutchings et al and the Ottawa Citizen are the first to notice problems. What they *did* do that's a first and a boon is an open analysis and investigation in widely-read fora of what so many who have worked at DFO have spoken of openly or in hushed tones for years. For fear of losing their jobs or whatever is outlined as a come-uppance for broaching that ol'e DFO disciplinary manual.

Some might think given this that Bill Rowat and Scott Anderson - the DFO bureaucrats in question look... well, a mite fishy! ;) shall we say?


After pressure from scientists, fishers, the NDP and Reform federal fisheries critics there is to be an investigation into bureaucratic interference in DFO's scientific research. Briefs from interested parties will be accepted. details coming up soon.

-cdm, DRIIA

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    (Last update: February 21, 1998 by cdm. These pages copyright C. Dianne Murray, 1997, and others where appropriate. Link at will but all rights reserved.