Thursday, June 30, 2011



I don’t like even thinking about fish farms and sex changed fish, much less writing on such a creepy subject. And it’s difficult because the information is so hidden. But then, anytime a government backed process surfaces that will please business but appall the public , it is generally kept as quiet as possible.

Why is the sex of fish being changed? For higher fish farm profits. A significant percentage of male salmon mature early and die in the pens before harvest. Blanket loss to fish farm producers. To avoid this loss, they want all females in their pens. You’ve probably heard this before.

But how to get all female fish in the pens? Well, fish scientists are all over this. They have devised ways. Either treat some females with male hormones that render the females male in all other respects but will only produce xx chromosomes in their sperm, or treat males with estrogen that will render them females. The sex-changed females won’t lay eggs, but their flesh will be firmer than the male salmon for the market and they will live longer. Voila! By splashing around some sex hormones, our fish farm fish become totally pleasing to the farm owners. But what does this sex changed fish flesh do to the consuming public?

In a publication entitled ORGANIC AQUACULTURE (June 23, 2010) we are told (page 4) that “Both artificially triploid (artificially sterilized) and monosex stocks (fish treated with opposite sex hormones) are consistently prohibited in international organic aquaculture standards”. Now why would these people take the attitude that anything is wrong with sex changed fish?

They quote the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements’ opinion that genetically modified organisms are bad news because of “Release of organisms which have never before existed in nature, and which cannot be recalled”, and “Unacceptable threats to human health.” There are lots more reasons but these two clawed at me. “Unacceptable threats to human health” and “Never before existed in nature and cannot be recalled?” Scary business. Okay, specifically, who or what is doing this to our fish? On the ground, so to speak. Somebody we can talk to about it?
Well, there’s Mr. Edward M. Donaldson. He works at West Vancouver Laboratory for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (unless he has recently moved on.) As far back as 1996 (Mr. Donaldson has been publishing papers on how to change the sex of fish since 1986) he co-wrote a paper called HORMONES AND SEX CONTROL IN FISH WITH PARTICULAR EMPHASIS ON SALMON and states that “The application of sex control in finfish aquaculture offers significant benefits for the optimization of production strategies…a review of methods…for the direct endocrine control of sex differentiation.”

“Optimization of production strategies”. “For the direct endocrine control of sex differentiation.” Don’t you just love this scientific language they use for screwing up nature anyway they possibly can for the benefit of industry? But this is not all Mr. Donaldson says. More later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


David Suzuki and other prominent environmentalists are urging Canadians to respond to their call to protest the Trans Keystone XL Canada Corp. pipeline (BCSEA-NEWS). We are advised by John Newcomb (jnewcomb@UVIC.CA) that the planned protests will take place in Washington, D.C. this summer. So far, so good. Sounds wonderful. Many young people will see this as an opportunity to express their disaffection at the way their world is being dismantled. However, the caveat immediately following this call to action does not sit right with me.

The caveat reads: “But Suzuki and other Canadians (BCSEA-NEWS) involved in the planned actions of civil disobedience have indicated they won’t risk being among those who might end up in handcuffs for fear they might lose the ability to travel to the U.S.”
Well, now. Fear rules. At least among our own generals of this war seeking to ward off environmental collapse. In the old days princes and kings would go into battle with their troops. They took the same risks themselves that they urged upon their followers. Afraid of not being able to travel to the US if one partakes of peaceful civil disobedience? Would that be so terrible? To the contrary, I think this would send the most striking message to the entire world. David Suzuki thrown out of the US and not allowed back because he actually physically protested the construction of a massive, murderous pipeline? Why, this action would give the entire Western world pause.

Other nations would conclude that our earth’s life support systems must indeed be critical for David Suzuki to risk arrest and perhaps they should themselves pull away from their own death oriented projects. But is the fear expressed by John Newcomb really that of not being allowed back in the US? I suspect the real fear he expresses, particularly for David Suzuki, is centered in the David Suzuki Foundation. I suspect that the most pressing fear is that of losing government funding and certain conservative sponsor support if David Suzuki actually risked arrest. Their attitude seems to be to let the troops, the young kids, run all the real risks while they act as the snugly secure generals. I don’t buy it. It’s not right. In my opinion it’s a cop-out and a betrayal of the young.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


When it is a B.C. genetically modified salmon. No such thing? Oh, but there is, and has been, for some time. In fact, I first heard of genetically modified fish fifteen years ago when I was living in Clayoquot Sound, on down from a fish farm. A young female worker at the fish farm told me one day that she was quitting her job because they were using sex hormones to change the sex of the fish. She was horrified. “It’s unnatural!” she shrieked.

At the time, I took this with a grain of salt. I didn’t know this woman very well, and her story didn’t wash. Why would the farms want to change the sex of their fish? It didn’t make sense. Not long after, I moved away from the Sound for various reasons, but never quite forgot the young woman and her story.

Gradually I began to accumulate hints of why fish farms might want to have sex changed fish, and/or their off-spring, in their pens. It’s because up to twenty per cent of male salmon “jack early” that is, come to maturity early. The female fish aren’t ready to engage (and will be killed before they are) so these males die. They are a financial loss to the farm. So the farms are looking for a way to elimate the males in their pens.
And guess what? There is a way. Several of them, in fact. With sex hormones. In a paper entitled Hormones and Sex Control in Fish with Particular Emphasis on Salmon from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at the West Vancouver Laboratory, one way fish farmers can get all female fish is described. They simply immerse some female fry in testosterone which effectively turns them into males, that is, the treated females when grown produce sperm, act as males and are able to fertilize the eggs of normal females. However, because the hormonally altered parent is still genetically female, her sperm will contain predominately xx (female) chromosomes instead of equal amounts of xx and xy (male) chromosomes. An alternate method is simply to treat the male fish directly with estrogens to turn them into females.

Other experiments are also taking place on fish in BC, including fresh water fish. One is called “induced triploid fish” which means, without going into the details of the manipulation of the fish, that they are rendered sterile. A kind of eternal youth for the fish (they don’t go into reproductive mode) which means their flesh stays firm for the tourists palate. Isn’t that lovely?

Currently, fifty per cent of the small lakes in BC are stocked with these “induced triploid fish” (Freshwater Fisheries of BC.) How can it happen that the wild fish that used to bless us with their abundance and the natural sweetness of their flesh have become sex changed and sterile? Where are BC’s investigative reporters? Are all of them in Boston?

Sunday, June 05, 2011


THIS DANGEROUS PLACE My Journey Between the Passions of the Living and the Dead. (Friesen Press, 2011)

While imprisoned for Contempt of Court in the spring of 2003, Betty Krawczyk searched for understanding into the reasons for her actions. Had she signed a paper promising not to go back to the Walbran Valley where she was arrested for blockading logging trucks with her group, Women in the Woods, she would have been released from prison until trial. But she refused. Her own stubbornness and intransigence before the courts of British Columbia baffled everybody, including Krawczyk herself.

This Dangerous Place poses these questions: What is the source of the human will? And an even more elusive question: to what degree can humans interact with the dead? Do the passions of people long dead still hang around in certain situations and seek to interfere with the lives of the living? This book asks these questions from lived experience. The answers may belong to the future. This is a true story.
This Dangerous Place can be purchased from the following sites: / / /

Betty Krawczyk is the author of three previous books, including: Open Living Confidential, Lock Me Up or Let Me Go, and Clayoquot: Sound of My Heart, which was shortlisted for the VanCity Book Prize.
For more information please contact:

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Judges should be elected by the people, not appointed by Christian Fundamentalist Prime Ministers. Judges should have to run for office like every other politician, because in a fundamental sense, that’s what they are. They bring their own biases and political affiliations to the bench that heavily influences their rulings. And in many US States judges do have to run for election. The Canadian public should be able to ask judges how they feel about abortion, gay rights, universal day care centres, the war in Afghanistan, all the money that goes into the military, about decriminalizing drugs, and particularly questioned about the environment.

When judges rule on environmental issues we should be able to demand that they know something about the particular environmental dispute they will rule on. It’s heart breaking to see judges rule on environmental issues they know nothing about but have the power of life and death over, that is, which forests shall live or die, which salmon bearing streams, which watersheds, which wet lands. Nature has inherent rights and should be brought before the court as living things, not dead matter.
My last appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada has just been dismissed. This case concerned Eagleridge Bluffs. The judge in BC who heard the BC Liberal government’s original application for an injunction knew nothing about the environment of the area and accepted a biased environmental assessment when only one third of the area had even been apprised.

But under Stephen Harper human rights issues are also on the block. Before there is another federal election Stephen Harper will have appointed seven of the nine Supreme Court judges of Canada. Poor us. Poor Canada. Poor Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will have a majority of Conservative, Christian Fundamentalist Supreme Court judges, or ones in sympathy with this majority, who will rule on women’s rights, gay rights, the business model as life model, and the privatization of anything public that can be privatized. This is not fair. It is not right. But who will stop it?

For a long time I have held the belief that women as a group can actually change our seemingly comatose society into one that recognizes the following things…that corporations are not people and should not be treated as such by the courts, that the corporate model is not a model for our children (or anybody) to emulate, that private banks are causing poverty throughout the world and must be changed into public banks, that First Nations must be celebrated instead of ignored, that “gonzo pornography” is evil, that prostitution is a shame of the male world, and that there is an terrible discrepancy between the amount of our country’s wealth and attention toward hockey and other competitive sports to the determent of real news and real needs. Even the CBC leads the news with sports announcements, excitedly and approvingly, gushing about the obscene wealth generated by these games while BC leads the nation in child poverty.

We know when our entire court system is geared to the wishes of alpha males (corporate heads) instead of to justice. We need a women’s court; a mother’s court. A court by and for women, where women can demand better protection against rape and domestic violence, where we can learn to understand the law (and translate it from elitist legal jargon into regular English, French) and can refute case law when it is egregiously wrong in its rulings on the environment and human rights. I believe that women are the sleeping giant of our times and “when awakened the earth will tremble.” And rejoice.