Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature, Oct. 23, 2017. (Hansard TV)

No ‘official complaint’ about Abbotsford lab: DFO

Popham under fire for salmon farm research claims

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham continued to defend her actions around salmon farms Tuesday, repeating that a provincial animal health lab in Abbotsford has had serious allegations raised about its methods.

B.C. Liberal MLA Peter Milobar called on Popham to clarify her statements to a Vancouver newspaper that she was “investigating one of the top scientists in the Ministry of Agriculture.” Dr. Gary Marty specializes in fish health and has previously spoken out against claims by anti-salmon farm activists that net-pen farms are responsible for declining wild salmon stocks.

Popham said the Abbotsford lab’s work is being reviewed after concerns raised by the federal Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

DFO’s Pacific region office issued a statement Tuesday, saying the federal ministry “has not made any official complaint to the Province of B.C. regarding the diagnostic work undertaken by the province’s Animal Health Centre.

“DFO has a memorandum of understanding in place with the Animal Health Centre to conduct diagnostic testing on farmed salmon samples collected through the DFO fish health audit program.” That testing agreement is in place until March 31, 2020.

RELATED: B.C. Minister warned salmon farm not to restock

Under questioning about a letter she sent to Marine Harvest asking it not to stock one of its salmon farms north of Vancouver Island, and then about her comments about the Abbotsford lab, Popham was on the defensive for a third day.

“There is no investigation, formally, and no one is being fired,” Popham said in the legislature Monday. “But we are focused on ensuring that there is integrity in our lab. With the cooperation of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we’re reviewing the results of the previous samples to make sure there is integrity in our results.”

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