Photo by USFWS Atlantic |

Sockeye salmon, also called red salmon or blue-black salmon, is native to the North Pacific Ocean and the rivers that discharge into it. One of thse rivers, the Fraser River, contains a sizeable population of sockeye, which are under imminent threat. They could be getting sick or even dying a slow death due to a cocktail of chemicals that we use on a daily basis in our homes.

These chemicals that are entering the watershed claims a judicial inquiry. Aquatic toxicology expert Dr. Peter Ross testified that many of the 23,000 chemicals used daily listed on the Federal Domestic Substances list may not kill the fish in a short timeframe, but could put them under considerable risk for future health problems. These complications may include stunted growth, confusion, inability to smell and find their home stream, weaker immune systems, vulnerable to other forms of pathologies, endemic outbreaks of diseases, affect their energetic abilities to feed and grow.

Ross said the actual impact of the contaminants might become apparent only when the salmon are afflicted with viruses or encounter food-supply shortages. It may also become apparent if their habitat experiences the adverse effects of climate change or if their habitat is essentially destroyed. Therefore he encouraged researchers to study contaminants and how they are affecting sockeye salmon in ‘’real world’’ field-studies.

Like many other projects, the problem lies within its funding. The federal government has cut a whopping $5.4 million from the research initiative known as “Toxic Chemicals Research Program’’. The program delivered about $1.2 million CDN in funding to researchers on the Pacific region and the cuts have even impacted Ross’ research. When funding is cut, it undermines the job of scientists to collect and analyze their data and produce results in a proficient way.

Science can’t be lampooned and be fidgeted with by bureaucracy & politics. Identifying the best research as best defined by scientists is how real progress can be made. These integral question will not be answerable until our best science is applied to the problem.

There’s always been tension between science & policy, I know of one guy they were ready to carve up with instruments of torture because he had this silly idea that the Earth revolved around the sun. When Galileo said "Eppur si muove" – ‘’It still moves’’, it meant that he would continue no matter what to study and publish because that is what scientists aspire to do. Inculcate a sense of respect for knowledge & rationality through the virtue of empirical strength. Science cannot wall itself off from controversy but it has to live by it!

Policy oversight is always good, and checks & balances are necessary even in science to ensure that human partiality or bias doesn’t run amuck to endanger scientific research. But when that power of oversight is abused either for ideological reasons or otherwise, it endangers the very existence of our understanding of the world. And if we give up that effort in trying to understand the world how can we possibly expect ourselves to be a responsible species and expect ourselves to live amicably with the millions of other organisms that share this beautiful blue planet.

Independent peer-reviewed research is the cornerstone of science. It shouldn't be about the left or the right, but what works to keep the inhabitants of Earth safe. Scientific truth ennobles us. It tells us who we are, where we've been, and where we're going as a collective! I believe the truth will only be found when all scientists are free to pursue it.

AuthorAbhijeet Manay