VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There’s growing concern from scientists over the dismantling of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Libraries.

Materials from seven world class libraries were supposed to be digitized before research was given away or destroyed, but there are reports only five per cent of total documents was processed.

Federal Minister of State for Science and Technology Greg Rickford says the libraries were under-utilized. “The DFO is going through a process of review and consolidation of those particular matters. There was under-utilization, there was a shift to digitization.”

What worries SFU Professor of Ecology John Reynolds is the claim by the federal government that research in the libraries wasn’t being used on a regular basis.

“I would like to see the evidence that it wasn’t getting used, and I would like to see the evidence that they know it wouldn’t be used in the future. Who ten years ago would have ever thought that we’d potentially be looking at a pipeline coming across from Alberta to Kitimat straight across British Columbia? What are they not seeing for the next ten years beyond that? You can’t say no one is using it. What they really need to say is no one will ever use it. That it cannot conceviably be of any use, no one can say that,” says Reynolds.

He says he has no idea what was discarded — and no one else seems to, either.

Reynolds says his colleagues who work at the DFO and witnessed the purge claim it was far too rushed and chaotic. Everything should have been digitized before anything was dumped, and scientists or other libraries should have been offered the unwanted materials, according to Reynolds, and “when all of that is finished, and you roll out this really successful website, then you start removing objects from these libraries. We’re doing it completely the other way around, and that’s why it’s such a mess.”

He says the government hasn’t been clear in where scientists can even access the digitized research.

Losing the research means the world of fisheries and environmental protection lose long-term data, some dating back to the 1800s, according to Reynolds.

“That’s how you record change. If you want to know for example impacts of climate change on plancton on the sea, which is the base of the food chain for the fish that we like to catch, or any of those other sorts of long-term series of fish populations, how the fish are doing from one year to the next, depend on long term, boring data, which are not available anywhere else.”

Like many other scientists, Reynolds calls it an irreplaceable loss.