Readers of my reLAKSation blog will know that I have repeatedly referred to the 18 November 2020 meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee in which SEPA’s head of ecology stated that sea lice from salmon farms are responsible for the decline of wild fish. are not responsible. I keep mentioning it because if this testimony had been long forgotten, wild fish would have preferred the area.
In comparison to this statement, Marine Scotland Science’s Summary of Science claims that the body of scientific information indicates that sea lice from aquaculture facilities negatively affected populations of salmon and sea trout on the west coast of Scotland. danger of. There are clearly different views expressed by the two organizations, but which accurately reflects what is happening on the West Coast?
I would argue that the only reason MSS now cites that the body of scientific evidence indicates there is a risk is because they have been selective in the science they use. There is plenty of other scientific evidence that points to the opposite point of view, but if they choose to ignore it, they may jump to their preferred conclusion.
I’ve tried to discuss the evidence with MSS for at least eight years and, on every occasion, they’ve managed to avoid doing so (and I always thought science was about exploring different perspectives).
My latest experience throws light on the measures that MSS adopts to avoid discussion. Each scientific paper provides the email address of the corresponding author. This is probably to allow correspondence to anyone reading the letter, especially if they have a question or want to raise a point.
Members of the MSS have published a paper about modeling the dispersal of sea lice from fields. As there are other published papers that indicate that sea lice are primarily maintained within salmon farms, I wrote to the corresponding author to ask whether the model had been validated in the wild, ie. Did they do any research to see if the model sea lice actually dispersed?
I was therefore extremely surprised to receive an email from the Office of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Section of the Scottish Government informing me that my FOI request was incomplete because I had not included my full name and contact details. Firstly, the MSS scientist knows who I am and secondly it was not an FOI request. It was a scientific question for the scientific author of a scientific paper. Despite writing to point this out, I received a second email to say it would be replied within the stipulated 20 working days. When did the scientific debate land in what became an FOI request?
Official line of defense?
This isn’t the first time I’ve received this kind of response. Nevertheless, I have also written to other MSS scientists over the years and I have received helpful and friendly responses with offers to provide more information. This is how it should work, and it seems MSS itself thinks so as they provide a directory of scientists working for them on the Scottish Government website. This directory includes a complete biography detailing areas of expertise as well as contact details. Why provide such a directory if they don’t want the public to contact these scientists directly?
It seems that the common factor between considering my questions deserving of direct answers from any scientist or sending an inquiry to an “official channel” is whether the question is about salmon farming and sea lice in particular Is.
In my opinion, it appears that MSS scientists are now reluctant to answer questions about salmon farming, if any feedback they can provide will compromise the official line that the body of scientific information indicates that aquatic Sea lice risks from agricultural facilities negatively affect populations of salmon and sea trout on the west coast of Scotland. Instead, any inquiry or query is sent centrally for official response.
The problem for MSS is that SEPA has already undermined the argument that sea lice from salmon farms are negatively impacting wild fish populations. How can MSS no longer expect others to question the science they used when SEPA has explicitly stated that sea lice from salmon farms are not responsible for the decline?
To my own question, the paper doesn’t mention anything about validation of models used to predict sea lice dispersal from salmon farms. Fortunately, I have now received a response to my FOI request. Rather surprisingly, it comes directly from the scientist, begging the question of why this MSS scientist couldn’t answer the question in the first place, instead of sending it to the FOI process, especially when the answer is just one sentence long.
The response stated: “Sea lice distribution validation is in agreement with the dispatch of this paper that deals with establishing algorithms for interactions between wild fish and lice.”
I’m starting to wonder how MSS scientists can build a model of sea lice dispersal, but then realize that it is completely unnecessary to actually demonstrate that the model shows the real way that sea lice spread in the ocean, Not just on some computer screens.
If nothing else, the pandemic has shown that algorithms can be notoriously unreliable. Why should we believe that the MSS model is different when no effort has been made to validate it?
Why this is important is that this modeling is the basis of SEPA’s planned risk assessment framework and, so far, there is no evidence that sea lice spread as the model predicts, let alone any wild salmon passing through proposed protection areas. to infect.