Fish scientist says review welcome, sees conflict potential

Amy Smart - Times Colonist

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Atlantic salmon being raised at a B.C. fish farm. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has come under fire this week from the Opposition Liberals for a review of the Animal Health Centre, including work by fish pathologist Gary Marty, who has disputed claims that open-net fish farms pose a high risk to wild stocks. Photograph By Marine Harvest Canada

A fish scientist at the centre of a debate about fish farms says he’s not surprised people think there might be a conflict of interest at his lab.

Gary Marty, a fish pathologist at the province’s Animal Health Centre, said the lab conducts work for both the fish-farm industry and government.

“Certainly the potential for conflict of interest, I discussed this with our other staff, and it’s certainly there,” Marty said.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has come under fire this week for saying she would investigate the “integrity” of the lab’s science — a move the Opposition Liberals criticized as politically motivated and inappropriate.

Popham initially said the review came at the request of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, before the federal department said that wasn’t true. DFO said it never made an official request, but one of its scientists expressed concerns.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said he had assigned his deputy minister, who is the head of the public service, to oversee the review.

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“I think the review is welcome,” Marty said.

“I don’t anticipate any problems with the response, but if there are some suggestions we can take, we’ll go ahead and make adjustments as needed.”

“The Animal Health Centre is the only place in Canada with team of board-certified veterinary pathologists who specialize in fish and work in an accredited diagnostic laboratory, Marty said.”

“If someone wants those parameters for examination of their fish, there’s only one place in Canada where they can get that done. And that’s our lab,” Marty said.

The lab informs clients when it might have another client with a potential conflict of interest, he said. “It’s something we have to deal with all the time.”

Marty said he did not take the allegations, in which he has been named, as a personal attack.

“I saw it more as an attack on the entire lab than an attack personally.”

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