The Salmon Farm Monitor
International News, February 2003
The culture of corruption endemic in salmon farming was finally exposed in all its gory detail when the Canadian fisheries minister, John van Dongen, resigned over his links with a salmon farming company. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s ‘Commercial crime squad’ are now investigating his dodgy dealings with the Norwegian salmon giant Stolt (“B.C. Minister faces police probe”: CBC News, 27th January). CBC News revealed (29th January) that “one of B.C.'s largest fish farming companies was the recipient of a tip about a government investigation from former provincial fisheries minister John van Dongen”. According to CBC “The company - Stolt Sea Farm Inc. - made a $5,200 political donation to the B.C. Liberals for their successful 2001 election campaign. Government sources say that later that year, van Dongen helped the fish farm company, sharing the contents of a government report about an investigation into Stolt - an investigation that wasn't over”. But salmon farmers have deep pockets and have been bankrolling several politicians. Calls for the resignation of his replacement, Stan Hagen, have flooded in. “Minister Hagen must resign immediately because the largest single campaign donation he received in the May 2001 election was from the Omega Salmon Group,” said Chris Genovali of Raincoast Conservation Society. “Mr. Hagen also received funds from Heritage Aquaculture and Akua Feed Systems Inc”. Read more ...
Maybe the Canadian Fisheries minister will be sent to do some hard labour on a salmon farm in Chile? In an unusual twist to the story of salmon farmers being convicted of pollution offences, it now seems that hardened criminals are passing some of their time on Chile’s salmon farms. According to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera salmon farmers are housed on the salmon farm in a ‘New Life Centre’. The experience has been so life-changing that three ex-prisoners have returned to work for the company upon finishing their prison term. Cultivos Marinos Chiloé - the seventh largest exporter of Chilean farmed salmon – specialises in long-term prisoners (with sentences of five years or more) and half of its 100-strong work-force comprises convicts. Given the flouting of environmental law in the Chilean salmon farming industry it seems like a marriage made in heaven. Last year, the Ecoceanos director (http://www.ecoceanos.cl) Juan Carl Cardenas exposed the illegal use of malachite green when he famously told Latin Trade magazine: “It's like cocaine. It's illegal, but everybody uses it”. Read more ...
If salmon farms were prisons there would be hundreds of thousands of escaped convicts let loose each year. During 2002 over 2 million farmed salmon escaped from their cages in Chile, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the US, Faroes and Tasmania. In February 2002, in what is believed to be the largest ever escape in the world, over 600,000 salmon escaped from a single farm in the Faroes. In January Intrafish (http://www.intrafish.com) revealed that over 613,000 salmon and trout escaped in Norway during 2002 and a further “around 900,000” in Chile. There are no wild salmon in Chile so farmed salmon escapees stand out like prisoners in comedy convict costumes. Escapes are no laughing matter, however, and raise serious concerns for wild fish (see the article in Nature “Stream of escaped farm fish raise fears for wild salmon”, 11th April 2002).
Canthaxanthin cuts in Europe
Salmon farmers in Scotland, Ireland, Denmark and France have until 1st December to comply with new EU regulations slashing the levels of the artificial dye Canthaxanthin (E161g) due to health fears over effects on the eye. The European Commission’s Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne dealt fake salmon farmers a body blow when he said (27th January) that “The use of this feed additive is purely cosmetic, to colour food and reduced levels of the additive will not adversely effect taste or quality” As The Daily Telegraph (“Blindness risk in EU farmed fish colouring”, 28th January) pointed out: “Without the additive the fish would have an unappetising greyish appearance that few shoppers would recognise as salmon. Manufactured as SalmoFan by the Swiss Pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche, the pigment can be bought in a range of shades”. The Guardian (“Salmon pink becomes a grey area for EU”) reported that: “Its orangey-pinkish flesh glistens from countless supermarket shelves across the country but the highly prized salmon is about to undergo a chameleon-like change of colour - due to a new European Union food safety edict. Concerned that the chemical being fed to farmed salmon to give them their bright hue may also be harming people's eyesight, the maximum amount of artificial colouring allowed in the fish by the EU is to be slashed by a factor of three. "Brighter eyesight or brighter salmon?" was how the European commission described the stark choice yesterday” Another article in The Sunday Times (2nd February) was headlined: “A little E161g with your salmon, madam?” More information ...
Fast on the heels of splashes in Time, Newsweek, The LA Times, and USA Today, an article – “When it Comes to Fish, Go Wild” - in BusinessWeek Investor (27th January) looks set to inflict yet more damage on the weeping sore that is salmon farming. It’s sub-heading – “The free-range varieties are better for you than their farm-bred cousins” – exposes the flaw in eating fatty farmed fish: a couch potato compared to the King of Fish. With a table of food facts on “Fat per serving”, “Total calories” and “Percent total fat that’s Omega-3” to back up its case, the article is well worth a look.
Kudoa (“soft-flesh syndrome”) is a flesh-eating parasite that has cost the Canadian industry CA$30-40 million and affects 20-50% of salmon farmers. Supermarkets are now boycotting B.C. salmon: “Some of the major US farmed salmon buyers – such as Costco - have told us that they were ‘very concerned’ when buying BC salmon for fear of kudoa; others told us they refuse point blank to purchase BC Atlantic salmon” reported Intrafish. For more information on Kudoa search Intrafish for ‘Kudoa’ (http://www.intrafish.com) including:
“BCSFA acknowledges lack of procedures to deal with Kudoa” (29th January)
Kudoa a ‘huge’ issue for BC – despite industry silence” (4th November)
“A well-known secret could tarnish the whole industry - Kudoa” (4th November)
Iceland (who currently produce ca. 5,000 tonnes) it seems does not want to be left out in the cold. Intrafish (30th January) reports that “Icelandic salmon production could reach 40,000 tonnes in 2006”. The Icelandic company Samherji recently bought 2.5 per cent of Norwegian company Fjord Seafood and are now playing a game of catch up with their neighbours in the Faroes (current production 40,000 tonnes).
In what Intrafish (30th January) describes as “one of the worst environmental scandals in Norwegian aquaculture history” thousands of diseased salmon were dumped in Troms fjord. The rotting carcases lay on the sea bottom for six months until in December when they were finally retrieved. The scandal has shaken the Norwegian industry and comes at a time when Infectious Salmon Anaemia is ravaging the North and West of the country.
‘Shoddy cleaning’ and a ‘lax attitude’ have meant that ISA has come back with a vengeance in Norway and the Faroes. In July Intrafish reported that “Shoddy cleaning blamed for ISA spread in Norway” and in December that a “lax attitude” had forced authorities to impose tighter ISA restrictions (“Tougher ISA control in Faroes following lax attitude”, 2nd December: http://www.intrafish.com). The waste mountain from Faroese farmed salmon is now so high that they have invested in a new plant to dispose of dead fish. A cheaper way of getting rid of diseased fish, however, would be to allow infected stock to escape. There is no suggestion here whatsoever that salmon farmers in either Scotland, Norway or the Faroes are deliberately releasing diseased fish so that they can save money on proper disposal and claim on their insurance. The fact that escapes of farmed salmon have shot up in Norway, Scotland and the Faroes (who over 600,000 salmon escaped in a single incident in February) is obviously purely coincidental. ISA has taken such a firm grip on Norway’s salmon farming in the North and West of the country - Nordreisa and Skjervøy in particular - that the disease is now threatening exports to the EU. In view of the scale of the ISA problem and the flouting of ISA controls, Intrafish reported in July that “Norway's insurance companies may not pay out for ISA losses”.
According to the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to decide sometime this year whether or not to allow the commercial growing of genetically engineered fish”. They are urging people to participate in an “Action Alert” advising the FDA not to grant approval. A report issued in January by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (http://pewagbiotech.org/research/fish) questioned the US’s ability to regulate transgenic fish properly. It says that the FDA lacks the expertise to evaluate environmental risks. The report – “Future Fish? Issues in Science and Regulation of Transgenic Fish” - also calls for greater transparency and public involvement in the review process. The report is available on-line.
On 15th January, an unprecedented international day of action against Norwegian multinational Pan Fish’s expansion plans in Canada kicked off 2003 in style. All in all, more than 500 people showed up in support around the world. The main organizers were the Heiltsuk and Nuxalk First Nations, Forest Action Network, Americans for Wild Pacific Salmon, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Raincoast Conservation Society. Peaceful protests took place in Ocean Falls at the disputed Pan Fish hatchery (see December news), the Norwegian Embassy in Vancouver, at the Canadian headquarters for Pan Fish in Campbell River, their North American office in Seattle, the doorstep of Pan Fish's largest shareholder in Germany, and at their distribution office in Hong Kong. More information ...
The news that Canadian protestors “deconstructed” a salmon hatchery is making waves here in Scotland. On 17th December, 60 people in a fleet of 14 boats arrived at Ocean Falls to protest the construction of a fish farm hatchery operated by Omega (a Pan Fish subsidiary). Edward May of the Forest Action Network could equally have been talking about the current situation in Ireland, Chile, Norway or Scotland when he said: “The protest is a symbol of how communities are losing patience with a Government who is ignoring them and ignoring science while promoting dirty fish farming. As the destructive industry expands, inevitably the heat of protests will rise” (http://www.fanweb.org/index_fishfarms.html). Since another Pan Fish subsidiary (Lighthouse of Scotland) is proceeding with controversial plans to open a salmon farm on The Tweed – a world famous salmon river - the incident was seized upon by the Scottish press. The Selkirk Weekend Advertiser (20th December) featured photos of the Canadian protests in a front-page article: “Storm brewing over fish farm”. Tweed Foundation director, Judith Nicol, says what happened at Ocean Falls proves the Borders is not alone when it comes to fears over the environmental impact commercial salmon farms can have. “This demonstrates that people in Canada were worried enough to be prepared to take direct action. It shows how strongly other people feel about this sort of development, with concerns about the impact on wild salmon from escapes or disease”. More details ...
On 13th January the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC) published “Making Sense of the Salmon Aquaculture Debate - Analysis of issues related to netcage salmon farming and wild salmon in British Columbia”. Key conclusions include: “While there is no absolute proof directly linking the spread of sea lice from farmed salmon to wild salmon populations, there is a growing body of compelling evidence suggesting that this is a very real possibility. Of all the fish health issues considered in this report, sea lice from fish farms constitute the most serious and immediate risk” and “Disease outbreaks on salmon farms add to potential sources of infection for wild salmon. While Pacific salmon have some natural resistance to the bacteria and viruses that occur in coastal waters, concentrations of these pathogens at farm sites can increase the risk of disease to migrating salmon”. Take a look at the full report.
The inspiring “Bear Witness With Me” column by the inspirational scientist Alexandra Morton of Raincoast Research is becoming a must read. Read her column published regularly on her excellent web-site. Her column of 10th January is one woman’s testimony to a species close to extinction. As she concludes: “The power of one is all we have-----BUT WE ALL HAVE IT”.