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Ministry tries to conceal sea lice records. Again.

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Despite losing a six-year battle earlier this year, B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has pulled an about-face and is once again attempting to block sea lice infestation records from being made public, environmental groups Ecojustice and T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation said today.          

In March 2010, after six years of proceedings, B.C.'s Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled that the ministry could not conceal 2002-03 sea lice infestation records from the public.

Now a request for the same data for January 2004 - March 2010 has been denied on new grounds that its release would bring financial or economic harm to the province.

"We take the position that this is an abuse of the Freedom of Information process. It's outrageous that the government is trying so desperately to block the release of identical information," said Randy Christensen, Ecojustice staff lawyer. "If this objection is so crucial, why wasn't raised in the ministry's original submission? This is a complete waste of time and resources for all involved parties."

The ministry claimed in 2004 that the release of the sea lice records would cause harm to third party interests, an objection that was ultimately struck down.

"Given the collapse of some major salmon runs and the start of the Cohen commission, it is unconscionable that this information is being withheld," said David Lane, executive director of T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. "We don't have six more years to waste.  It is impossible to zero in salmon farms as a possible cause of these declines and find the solution if we do not have access to these records."

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