Scientist gagged over fishy story

25 August 2011

Its not only in South Africa that scientists get gagged and fired for saying things that industry and others don’t want to hear.  Canadian scientist Kristi Miller and her colleagues turned up evidence that many sockeye enter the Fraser in a compromised state, possibly because of viral infections. That discovery was published in January in Science, one of the world’s top research journals.  

Everything from climate change, disease, sea lice from salmon farms, toxic algae blooms and a lack of food in the ocean has been implicated.  However, scientists have not been able to pinpoint explicitly why the sockeye stocks have been declining in the past 20 years.

Miller told an enquiry that she was told only that she could not talk publicly about her work until she first presented her testimony at the inquiry.  The inquiry was packed for Miller’s much-anticipated testimony, as there was heightened public interest after it was believed she was muzzled by the federal government after the article was published.

As scientists we know that this is a “tip of the iceberg” situation.  A lot of information that is in the public interest gets suppressed, for a variety of reasons, not least short-term financial gain at the expense of future quality of life, or petty jealousies from other researchers.

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