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An rud bhios na do bhroin, cha bhi e na do thiomhnadh
"That which you have wasted will not be there for future generations"

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Guest Column, April 2005

Geir Kjensmo, 42 years old and working part time as an economic consultant with the Norwegian Salmon Association. The bombing of the vessel Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, New Zealand greatly influenced his support for environmental organisations like Greenpeace. His aim is to build a strong organization of both Norwegian and international sport fishermen who love the famous Norwegian rivers. From small beginnings in 2003 has received good support and built up a network of like-minded people including, Petru Dima and Pelle Klippinge of Sweden, Erling Olsen and Tore Olsen of Norway, and Lasse Laursen of Denmark.

The threats to Norway's famous wild salmon

The Norwegian salmon farming industry totally ignores the importance to preserve the wild genuine stocks of salmon, if this means restrictions for the farmers. In 1999 a committee consisting of a broad coalition of interests and organisations, agreed on a minimum plan to save the wild Atlantic salmon in Norway. Among those where representatives of the salmon farmers.

Since then the salmon farming industry, their organisations and their lobbyists at the Parliament (Stortinget), have done everything to prevent this plan from being carried out. All obstacles have been removed in order to allow the industry to expend without limit.

This is well known in Europe where many work to restrict the Norwegian overproduction and dumping of salmon onto the market. A common argument is that the farming industry is the salvation for a coast line with few other options of employment. The industry is then allowed to expand without paying sufficient consideration to the impact on the environment.

Science reports from abroad and also from our own scientists that state that this expansion will make the wild salmon extinct, are silenced and given few opportunities for being published in my country. Norway’s own Directorate for Nature Management is always being attacked when it comes to recommendations for preserving wild salmon.

It’s important to realise that the farming industry represent a big economy in Norway and that they use every means to obtain their goals and that many politicians are in their hands!

The threats from salmon farming in Norway are many. In the area near the farms, sea-lice thrive and the density of lice can be lethal to smolt migrating to their feeding areas in the ocean. The farms are often established on both sides of the fiords where the migrating smolts swim from their home river to the sea. They have to swim through the lice belt of the farms and are attacked by a great number of lice. They soon die impoverished on their way to sea.

Escaping farmed salmon is a major problem. This poses a big threat to the wild fish because of the risk of bringing diseases from the farms to the rivers. Big numbers of escapees enters the rivers late, after the spawning of the wild fish. The spawning activity of the farm fish ruins the spawning redds of the wild fish.

The biggest threat, however, is the interbreeding between wild and farmed fish. In some rivers, escapees far outnumber the wild fish – in some places as much as 80% of the salmon are farmed fish. This genetic pollution of the wild populations will create a salmon less well adjusted to the conditions in their home river and hence with a smaller survival rate. Fish farmers and their organisations maintain that there will be salmon in the rivers. This is nonsense, as the original populations, which are unique in each river, will not exist.

No man-made activity should be allowed in such extent that it threatens the environment and in this case, in time, will extinguish the famous wild salmon of Norway!

During the years between 1973 and to 1999 the number of wild Atlantic salmon reduced by over 80%. Farm-raised salmon now outnumber wild fish nearly 85 to one. It’s a fact that our way of living has brought our wild salmon to a point near extinction. As wild stocks dwindle, this legendary sport fish has become the veritable chicken of the sea.

Norway is one of the wild salmon’s last frontiers. Even though the salmon is extinct in more than 60 Norwegian salmon rivers, the last substantial remaining stocks do spawn in a degree sufficient to preserve the Atlantic wild salmon.

The wild salmon is an important resource for man. A river with wild and living fish is a proof of nature in balance and a guarantee for our existence. Each year tens of thousands of people seek our rivers and lakes to practise angling after these salmonids. Most of the people could not imagine a future without this opportunity.

The Norwegian Salmon Association has only one goal: to preserve the wild salmon.

Geir Kjensmo