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International News, December 2003

“Filthy” farmed salmon

Most of us have known it all along but now it’s official – some farmed salmon is “filthy”, “putrid” and “unfit for food”. The Salmon Farm Monitor can exclusively reveal that the United States Food and Drug Administration have refused over 260 cases of “filthy”, “insanitary” and salmon contaminated with listeria from Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Chile over the last year. According to the US FDA, the ‘filthy’ violation code means “The article appears to consist in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food”. And ‘insanitary’ means “The article appears to have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health”.

The ‘Import Refusal Reports’ make uncomfortable reading for companies in Ireland (including Nolans Seafoods, Tipperary Fine Foods Ltd, Wrights Of Howth), Scotland (Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd, Lossie Seafoods Ltd, Pinneys Of Scotland Ltd), Chile (Procesadora De Productos Marinos Delifish Ltda, Cultivos Marinos, Robinson Crusoe) and Norway (Scanfood, Brieg Seafood, Leica Fiskeprodukter). Irish salmon is by far the most “insanitary” representing 210 out of 226 cases whilst salmon from the United Kingdom is the most likely to be contaminated with listeria accounting for 15 out of the 23 cases (65%). You can view country by country reports via the US FDA web-site.

Supermarket protests

The North American ‘Farmed and Dangerous’ campaign celebrated another success in November when over 60 supporters protested outside supermarkets in Seattle, Los Angeles, Victoria, Vancouver and San Francisco. “The November 5th Day of Action was a tremendous success bringing together environmental organizations, fishermen, and concerned citizens. People showed their support by waving banners, distributing literature and speaking to the problems associated with the salmon farming industry” said Sophika Kostyniuk of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform. “We are asking consumers to think twice before buying farmed salmon. Retailers are being asked to stop selling farmed salmon until there are major reforms in the salmon farming industry, and until the product is safe. We believe that retailers have the responsibility to inform their customers of exactly what type of salmon they are selling, and that once the facts about the salmon farming industry are out there, retailers and consumers alike will choose not to buy farmed salmon”.

Fisherman and food writer Jeremy Brown, who was outside the Seattle Whole Foods store, told The Salmon Farm Monitor: “Describing the value of wild salmon to consumers in Seattle simply shouldn’t be an issue. But what we are now seeing is that interest in 'wild' salmon, particularly frozen, is really increasing internationally. Retailers and consumers are aware that good quality wild salmon are available year round, and are responding to that message by asking for it. That’s better for the consumers, better for our coastal communities, and because people do understand the context of wild salmon, better also for the long term sustaining of our wild salmon runs”. Scottish supporters of the SFPG have their own opportunity to voice concerns on 20th December outside M&S and Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Edinburgh – see The Salmon Farm Monitor for further details.

Salmon superpower?

The Norwegian financial broadsheet Dagens Næringsliv (25th November) has sparked rumours that two of the largest salmon farming companies in the world – Nutreco and Pan Fish – are to merge to form ‘Pan Harvest’. Speculating on the merger Intrafish reported that: “Already, Marine Harvest is a clear leader in salmon production worldwide - a merger with Pan would create a veritable salmon behemoth that could wield major market power”. The merger of the world’s largest (Nutreco) and third-largest salmon farming company (Pan Fish) would create a salmon superpower capable of producing in excess of a quarter of a million tonnes. ‘Pan Harvest’ would be responsible for 37% of the Scottish salmon market and 31% of the Norwegian market as well as dominating the Canadian and Chilean sectors.

According to Intrafish (27th November), who label the new company a “tiger in the tank”: “Pan Harvest” will be such a massive, dominating company that Cermaq, Fjord Seafood, Lerøy and Stolt Sea Farm will only qualify for the rank of medium-large. The last four companies mentioned will try to prevent this from happening”. “From a marketing perspective, I would say it would make the big really big,” Camanchaca Vice President Bert Bachmann told Intrafish. But, “Being big doesn’t necessarily always make you better” he growled like a tiger.

Corporate development Nutreco style

Big is certainly not better as far as Nutreco employees are concerned. Nutreco is now shedding staff as fast as it is losing money and credibility. With cutbacks already in Scotland, Chile and Norway, Nutreco have turned their attention to Canada. In an ironic twist Corporate Development Manager Vivian Krause has been sacked as part of Nutreco’s ‘corporate development’. Nutreco’s idea of ‘corporate development’ is merely a euphemism for redundancies and job losses.

“I wish I had a buck for each time I heard Vivian wax poetic on the rosy employment outlook of aquaculture? How ironic. Live by the sword…..,” said Dr John Volpe of the University of Alberta when he heard the news. “Rather than adopting a business structure that truly does benefit all, Nutreco and others have chosen to give only lip service to their commitment to coastal communities and our environment while in ruthless pursuit of ever shrinking economic solvency. I find it difficult to be sympathetic when one of the key players in this deception falls victim to the monster she was so instrumental in creating. I'm sure Nutreco would agree: It’s nothing personal”.

OECD target Nutreco

The OECD’s ‘Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises’ have put Marine Harvest Chile (a subsidiary of Nutreco) under the spotlight once again. Last year Marine Harvest Chile were fined for the illegal use of malachite green – now its labour code is under close scrutiny. The process of using the OECD’s ‘Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises’ to present environmental and labour complaints is unprecedented in Chile. It was initiated in 2002, when the Dutch organisation Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth) and Centro Ecoceanos undertook an investigation in the Lake District region of Chile to find out if Marine Harvest follow the guidelines put forward by the OECD Guidelines. After the complaints were accepted by the OECD a process of investigation and discussion that lasted for more than a year commenced.

Ecoceanos News (20th November) reported that the recommendation by the OECD was for Marine Harvest to “progressively assimilate their standards to those found in the homeland” and initiate a process of dialog with local communities, artisan fishers, environmental organisations and government bodies. Concerning the process of controlling the salmon industry, it states that “to gain a full overview of the subject matter it will be necessary to make sure that national environmental regulation being implemented over the next months has a sufficient reach and validity”. The final report of the OECD in Chile recognizes that “the use of chemical products and the physiological waste of the aquatic organisms have an impact on the environment that can affect natural resources”. Juan Carlos Cárdenas, president of Ecocéanos said the report was “a wake up call for Nutreco on the performance of its affiliate in Chile”.

ContiGroup pull the plug on Fjord

The US company ContiGroup has sold all its shares in Norwegian giant Fjord Seafood, owner of Atlantic Salmon of Maine, WISCO in Scotland, Fjord Seafood Chile and Fjord Seafood Norway. Fjord Seafood controls ca. 10% of the farmed Atlantic salmon market and is the 2nd largest salmon farming company in the world (after Nutreco) producing over 100,000 tonnes of salmon in 2001. ContiGroup are controlled by the Fribourg family in New York and with a turnover of USD 2 billion last year figures at 93rd ranking in the financial magazine Forbes’ list of the USA’s largest private companies.

Like Nutreco (one of Europe’s largest pig and poultry farmers), ContiGroup have their fish fingers in many pies. They are one of the world’s largest cattle feed suppliers, the sixth largest poultry producer in the USA, the largest integrated pork producer in the US and one of the largest manufacturers of animal and poultry feed in China. The Sierra Club feature ContiGroup in “America’s Ten Least Wanted Animal Factories”. At least factory farmed salmon is off the menu this Christmas in the Fribourg family.

Norwegian/Finnish seminar

Details of a ‘Wild Salmon’ seminar held in September on the Norway-Finland frontier are now available. The seminar’s theme centred on the Sámi indigenous people’s perspective on the Tana river (Deatnu in Sámi) and their relationship with wild Atlantic salmon. Economically, since the fish farm industry started, it is very difficult for the Sámi to make a living from wild salmon. The number of Atlantic wild salmon has dropped world-wide with 90% during the last 300 years and again 82% in the last 30 years. Atlantic Wild Salmon is now considered as a threatened species. Finnmark's rivers are its last stronghold. The Norwegian/Finnish border river Tana has the largest wild Atlantic salmon population in the world and a yearly catch varying between 100-200 tonnes.

Focus was given to the lack of Sámi indigenous rights to salmon fishing, ecological threats like escaped from salmon fish farms that lie in the fjords at the river mouth and the meaning of salmon for the Sámi economy both for subsistence use as for the commercial market. Indigenous representatives from British Colombia, Canada testified about their exclusive community fishing rights, their ways of using the Pacific wild salmon and the ecological problems caused by Norwegian fish farm company, Pan Fish. The introduction, programme, speeches and the full report are available on-line.

Norwegian salmon quarantined by Australia (again)

Three months after the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service found “sea lice under the skin of raw salmon imported from Norway” more Norwegian farmed salmon has been seized by the Australian authorities. The Mercury (21st November) reported that: “Quarantine officers seized the shipment of uncooked Norwegian salmon during a container inspection soon after it arrived”. Opposition primary industries, water and environment spokesman Jeremy Rockliff said the find showed that not only were importers not heeding the message over uncooked Norwegian salmon, but Mr Green was not taking enough action to ensure such products weren't coming to Tasmania in the first place.

"Why have we still not seen any charges laid over the original seizures? Does the minister intend to enforce our quarantine laws, or allow people to seemingly break them with impunity? Where is the deterrent?" he said. After the first seizure in September the chairman of the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association, Owen Carington Smith, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It is a scourge of the industry overseas. This is of equal importance to us as foot and mouth disease would be on land”. Mr Carington Smith was joined by Tasmania's Primary Industries Minister, Bryan Green, in calling for an immediate ban on all imports of Norwegian salmon.

Spamom

The Washington Post is not on the International Salmon Farmers Association’s Christmas card list this year. Here is the dialogue of the comic strip by Hilary Price entitled ‘The Labeling Debate’ as published on 17th November: “All I am saying is if they futz with their genetic code, pump them with growth hormone and add dye to their food to make their flesh pink, you shouldn't get to just call them 'salmon'. What do you suggest? Spamon”.

Earlier this year CBS reporter Andy Rooney also lambasted farmed salmon: “Why on earth would anyone buy a fish grown on a farm? First of all, they taste like shit with little bones and look like watery pink lemonade. Give me a frozen sockeye over a fresh farm fish any day….And these fish have lice, just like on a dog-pound mutt, except it's in the sea. Eat farmed fish? I'd rather have Spam”.

Video nasty

If you’re fed up with all the turkeys on the TV this Christmas why not sample what’s on offer on video. Following the award-winning BBC documentary on the “Price of Salmon” and RTE’s recent ‘Prime Time’ expose of the Irish salmon farming industry, “Net Loss - The Storm Over Salmon Farming” is now available from Bullfrog Films. Filmed in Chile, Washington, and British Columbia, ‘Net Loss’ assesses the risks and benefits of salmon farming through interviews with government and industry spokesman, who make the case for salmon farming, and the fishermen, native people, and scientists who extol the dangers it poses and the damage it has already done.

According to Mark Ritchie of the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy ‘Net Loss’ does: “A fantastic job of telling the entire industrial salmon farming story - from one end of the planet to the other, and from the producer all the way to the consumer. This is the film to show your friends and colleagues who still think that buying farmed fish is the best way to protect wild salmon or to feed the world. Net Loss is a myth buster par excellence!”.