02/14/2014 10:03 EST | Updated 04/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Scientist Silencing Continues For Federally-Funded Research

scientist conducting research...

At an annual conference in Truro, N.S., that brings fishermen and scientists together to promote ocean research, some researchers declined to discuss their work with media because they did not have approval to do so.

Scientists across the country have been expressing growing alarm over federal programs monitoring areas that range from climate change and ocean habitats to public health, worried Canadians are being deprived of crucial scientific information.

On Friday, the 21st annual meeting of the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society gathered in Nova Scotia’s “Hub City” to discuss the latest fisheries and oceans research. 

A news release was sent, inviting media to the event — however many researchers declined to speak to CBC News, saying they did not have permission from their superiors to answer questions about government-funded research.

Kumiko Azetsu-Scott, a research scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who works out of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, spoke to group about increasing acidification in the world’s oceans. 

According to Azetsu-Scott’s research, ocean acidity has increased by 30 per cent over the past 200 years — in part because of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air dissolving into water, increasing the pH.

“Compared to the Scotian Shelf, the gulf is more acidic,” she said during her presentation.

Important fisheries research

More acidic water has a devastating effect on ocean life, especially for sensitive organisms such as corals — the basis of many marine ecosystems — whose calcium carbonate structures dissolve in more acidic conditions. 

BIO is looking at the effects ocean acidification has on important fisheries, such as the $1-billion lobster industry — but more research is needed. 

She said during her presentation, the problem is not going away.

“Doesn’t seem to be any carbon dioxide emission control is going on,” she said.

Unfortunately Azetsu-Scott, who said she wanted to speak to CBC News about her work, declined to do so since she was unable to reach her superior at DFO for permission.

She was not alone.

Bénédikte Vercaemer, a BIO biologist for fisheries and oceans, presented her research on the invasive green crab whose populations have exploded on Canada’s east coast in recent years. 

Green crabs, which are native to Europe, have expanded into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, along the coast into New Brunswick waters. Most recently the invasion has spread into the waters off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Green crabs feed on bivalves important the the Maritimes shellfish industry such as oysters, mussels and clams. In their pursuit for food, they dig up eel grass, critical habitat for the young of many commercial species. 

Vercaemer also declined to speak with CBC, citing she did not have permission from superiors to speak to media. 

Federal scientist silence 'unfortunate'

Federal NDP fisheries critic Robert Chisholm said it was "unfortunate" the federal scientists were unable to discuss their research, which is providing important insights into the environment and its impact on one of Atlantic Canada’s biggest industries.

“It’s too bad the federal government wasn’t a little more forthcoming with some of that research for the general public.” 

However, one of the researchers CBC attempted to talk to would discuss his research. 

Dalhousie University's Jon Grant, in the oceanography department, is studying the impact of salmon farming on lobster — a five-year project funded by the federal government and Cooke Aquaculture.


Grant said no matter who is funding his research, the scientific evidence speaks for itself.

Grant admits he is still at the beginning of his research, but is trying to resolve some important questions about salmon farming's affect on the environment. 

“To look at whether they can fit into places that are less desirable as lobster habitat,” he said.

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