According to emails and other documents obtained by Postmedia News in Canada, a scientist with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), who was researching the reasons for the sudden decline of sockeye salmon in western Canada in 2007, was ordered by the government not to discuss the results of her study with members of the press.
Kristi Miller, head of the Pacific region’s molecular genetics section of the DFO, published her study in Science this past January, and as usual, the journal encouraged her to accept interviews with journalists about her findings. However, the Privy Council Office (PCO), which offers non-partisan advice to Canada’s Prime Minister, refused permission for Miller to conduct the interviews and also for the DFO to issue a press release.
In the study, Miller and colleagues conducted a genomic analysis of the fish and found increased expression in a set of genes associated with fighting infection or leukemia. While the researchers do not know the cause of the increased gene expression, they say that one potential source is a virus originating from fish farms.
The PCO claims that the reason for the denial is because the research is ongoing and that, next month, Miller is scheduled to testify before the Cohen Commission—a government task force set up to investigate the salmon decline. A spokeswoman for DFO said the department was concerned that interviews with Miller might sway the decision of the commission, reports ScienceInsider.