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International News, Decmber 2004

Leucoalachite green is a mutagen and a carcinogen says the UK

Following new studies in the United States, the UK Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has slipped out a statement on malachite green. “The Government recognises that there are continuing concerns about the potential effect of malachite green and leucomalachite green on human health,” states the January issue of MAVIS.

“The Department of Health’s Committee on Mutagenicity and Carcinogenicity have recently looked at data from studies carried out in the USA. They have advised that both malachite green and leucomalachite green should be considered in vivo mutagens and that leucomalachite green should also be regarded as a genotoxic carcinogen. Their advice will be taken into account to ensure that the interests and the health of consumers remain fully protected”.

In the same issue of MAVIS, the VMD reported that follow-up investigations into residues of malachite green and leucomalachite green had found farmed Scottish salmon to be 14% (5 out of 36 samples) and 19% (7 out of 36 samples) contaminated respectively. The UK Food Standards Agency have also found imported farmed tilapia, milk fish, black catfish and cream dory from Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam to be contaminated with residues of malachite green and leucomalachite green.

“FSA officials have met with Embassy representatives from each of these countries,” reported MAVIS. “Malachite green is not permitted for use in aquaculture in Indonesia or Vietnam. In Japan it is being phased out; only fish eggs and fry may be treated with malachite green. The problem is being treated very seriously by all concerned, and investigations have been initiated into the source of the problem in each country.

These have, so far, proved inconclusive in Indonesia and Japan. In Vietnam, two fish farms have been implicated in the supply of contaminated fish. The plants that had processed the contaminated fish are currently suspended from exporting fish to the EU market, and more rigorous monitoring has been put in place until the problem has been resolved.”

Farmed salmon from Scotland, the Faroes, Norway and Chile has all be found to be contaminated with malachite green and leucomalachite green. The European Commission’s Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General has issued at least a dozen rapid food alerts concerning malachite green contamination in farmed salmon imported from Chile.

Last year the WTO introduced new global limits for malachite green residues in farmed salmon. For more information on malachite green see back issues of ‘International News’ and the SFPG’s response to the US consultation in December 2003: http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/sfpgreports.shtml

Farmed 65 times more contaminated than wild

An investigation by CTV and The Globe and Mail (14th February) into flame retardants in food turned up the heat on farmed salmon yet again. Last year it was reported that farmed salmon was contaminated with flame retardants but it did not compare it with other foods (http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/intlnewsseptember2004.shtml#item10). This latest study tested 12 common foods – the highest levels by far were found in farmed salmon and trout. Farmed Atlantic salmon was found to be 187 times more contaminated than milk, 85 times more contaminated than cheese, 80 times more contaminated than extra lean ground beef and 35 times more contaminated than pork chop.

And just like the Science study last year which found that farmed salmon was up to 32 times more contaminated with some cancer-causing contaminants than wild Alaskan salmon this study found that farmed Atlantic salmon was 65 times more contaminated than wild Pacific salmon.

According to CTV, “Canadian food now has the second highest levels of chemicals in the world, after the US”. Beverly Thorpe of Clean Production Action said: “Compared to Europe our levels are 10 to 100 times higher and they are doubling every two to five years. So we are facing a chemical crisis”. Dr Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas Health Science Center, said of flame retardants in food: “These are undesirable persistent toxic chemicals. And even though we don’t know the exact meaning of these levels of the health of children or adults, it is certainly undesirable to have these toxic chemicals in our food supply.” The safest way to avoid such undesirable substances is to steer clear of farmed salmon.

Bill Clinton rejects Naked Chef’s food

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, fresh from being branded a “whore” by fellow chef Clarissa Dickson Wright, has now managed to upset former US President Bill Clinton. Foul-mouthed Oliver called the ex-president a “****ing ****er” and stormed out of the kitchen when Bill had the gall to turn down the food on offer at his London restaurant Fifteen. “Chef off Clinton!” screamed the headline in the News of the World (27th February). Jamie, who had even put on a suit to meet Clinton, ranted: “This is what happens with bloody celebrities”.

Jamie is desperately trying to salvage his reputation after his savage mauling in the press over his hypocritical decision to promote farmed salmon for the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s when his own restaurant does not serve farmed salmon. “I want to get my life back,” said the headline in The International Express (22nd February). Oliver even had sympathy for his biggest critic (other than the SFPG). “I know Clarissa Dickson Wright had a pop at me for promoting Sainsbury’s farmed salmon and, in a way, I agree with her. I understand where she’s coming from”.

Maybe that’s why Jamie is now crusading to clean up the menus in schools across the UK. His new TV programme “Jamie’s School Dinners” is a big hit with viewers even though Jamie’s language is as filthy as a salmon farm. As reported in the News of the World (27th February), Oliver calls school dinners “f***ing horrible, scrotum burger, fish finger, reconstituted, mechanically-reclaimed, sacks of old sh*t”. Farmed salmon may not be on the menu at his own restaurant Fifteen but it looks as if it’s on the menu at school.

Students revolt over revolting farmed salmon

Students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver discovered recently that they are being served cheap and nasty farmed salmon whilst staff dine in luxury on wild salmon. “It may well be brain food, but some University of British Columbia students say farmed salmon is an insult to their intelligence,” reported The Province (24th February). “While 2,600 students living in junior residences are being offered farmed salmon at mealtimes, UBC professors have chosen to dine on wild sockeye”.

“It’s a double standard,” said UBC Students for Clayoquot Sound President Dave Khan. “We don’t see why students should be receiving this poor grade of salmon while staff should be receiving the higher grade of salmon. Students aren’t even aware that they’re buying farmed salmon.”

Second-year arts student Jessica Van Zetten, 19, said: “If wild salmon is better, no it’s not fair. It’s our cafeteria, and we should be getting the food that is better.” UBC’s manager of residence dining, Loriann McGowan, said wild salmon is about 25% more expensive than farmed salmon. “I have no problem bringing in wild salmon, provided the students are willing to pay for it,” she said.

The first step for students is for adequate labelling of farmed and wild salmon. George Leonard, science manager of the Seafood Watch program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium told USA Today (21st February) that wild-caught salmon is almost always labelled as such. Farmed salmon is often labelled ‘fresh Atlantic salmon’. “There aren't any Atlantic salmon fisheries anymore; if it says Atlantic salmon, it's farm-raised,” Leonard advised. “If you're buying something that's $3 a pound, it's not wild salmon. And if it looks like faded lipstick, it's also not wild salmon”.

Salmon farming rivals

A new report – “Salmon Farming Rivals 2004” - from Intrafish lifts the lid on the global business of salmon farming. Norway and Chile may be “pulling away from the pack” but they have been hounded by infectious diseases and mass escapes during 2004. According to Intrafish, “Norway’s salmon industry was bothered considerably by disease in 2004, in particular the diseases of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) and Pancreas Disease (PD). During the year there were 15 new cases of ISA confirmed. In addition, around 40 instances of the PD disease were detected, where Hordaland County was hardest hit with the most incidents.”

Disease was not the only problem in Norway. “The escape figures from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries reveal that 473,000 salmon and trout made their escape, and just on 20,000 marine fish”. Disease was also a problem in Norway’s major rival – Chile. “There were indeed new diseases in 2004. In late 2003 and early 2004 a new type of vibriosis was discovered in Chile….The exact number of companies that have been affected by the disease is unknown, however various companies in Chile’s Region 10 and 11 have tested positive, amounting to about 16 companies”.

Chapters in the Intrafish report include: “Norway and Chile pulling away from the pack”, “Much drama for Norway – but not a bad year after all”, “Chile – a giant still emerging”, “2004 in Ireland: another year best forgotten”, “Scotland keeps on struggling”, “North America: a perpetual battle with fish farming opponents”, “Iceland still catching up with the times”, “A fairly good year for Australia”, “A ‘business as usual’ year for New Zealand”, and “Faroe Islands at rock bottom”. The “Salmon Farming Rivals 2004” report can be bought now from Intrafish.

Businesses in Vancouver asked to check their investments

Environmental groups in Canada are targeting investors in salmon farming companies. An advert taken out by the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) in Business in Vancouver magazine (15th February) asked: “Is your stock portfolio killing wild salmon?” above a photo of a fisherman and another of a wild salmon infested with sea lice. The advert went on: “If you invest in farmed salmon, you are putting more than just your money at risk”. Readers were asked to check their investment portfolios for stock in salmon farming companies including Stolt, Heritage, Nutreco, Panfish and Cermaq - the five large companies dominating the British Columbian coastline.

“Many investors don’t realize that their weekday investments may be threatening their weekend activities”, said Jennifer Lash, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society and a member of CAAR. “The salmon farming companies such as Stolt and Heritage are not sharing this information so we feel that it is up to us to let business people and sports fishermen know what is really going on.”

According to CAAR: “Wild salmon will soon begin to migrate through the Broughton Archipelago and elsewhere is British Columbia. Research from B.C. and around the world demonstrates that unnatural levels of sea lice from fish farms are killing juvenile salmon as they migrate from river to open ocean. Despite this, the five major multinational salmon farming companies operating in British Columbia have refused to change their practices to protect wild salmon.

If investors realize how much salmon farming is threatening the environment an one of their favourite pastimes we believe salmon farming companies will change to closed containment systems which would go a long way to ensuring that wild salmon can swim from river to ocean. The recreational fishing industry employees over 4700 people and contributes at least 72 million dollars in wages to the BC economy. The Aquaculture industry employees 1900 people and contributes 37 million dollars in wages”.

Norwegian press slam Norwegian companies operating in Canada

Norwegian multinationals operating in Canada are making headlines back home for all the wrong reasons. Eighteen month’s after they exposed how Norwegian companies were operating poorly in Chile, Dagbladet (Norway’s biggest selling daily newspaper) published a series of negative articles on the activities of Norwegian multinationals Cermaq and Grieg in British Columbia.

“Norwegian companies operating in British Columbia are about as welcome as a dose of smallpox,” said Don Staniford of Friends of Clayoquot Sound in an article written by Dagbladet’s Thomas Ergo. “Rydd op, Brende” ran another article (“Clean up, Brende”) referring to Cermaq’s polluting practices in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Brende is the Norwegian Minister for Trade). Friends of Clayoquot Sound have now launched petition calling for Cermaq to “Clean Up or Clear Out” to Mr Brende.

Another article in Dagbladet focussed on Grieg Seafood’s problems with mass escapes, diseases, algal blooms and toxic chemicals in Nootka Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. This followed a report – “Fish farms causing problems in Muchalet Inlet” – in the First Nation newspaper Ha-Shilth-Sa (10th February) which revealed that the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation has launched two judicial reviews asking the Federal Court and BC Supreme Court to overturn the permits for a sea cage salmon farm in Nootka Sound.

The Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation would like to see the Mowachat South fish farm tenure in the hahoulthee be a closed-containment system. Because these issues will be going before the courts in the next few weeks, Mowachaht/Muchalaht Tyee Ha’wilth Mike Maquinna could not speak about these issues until after a judgement is released.

Offshore aquaculture makes waves in the US

A coalition of fishing, environmental and consumer groups including the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations are working together to stem the tide of offshore aquaculture. Legislation that allows offshore aquaculture will likely be introduced in the US Congress in the next two months. A bill to allow fish farming in the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), 3-200 miles offshore, has been developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The legislation propels NOAA into the lead federal agency with the outlined intent to expand marine aquaculture five fold by 2025 from $900,000 to $5 billion. NOAA has been funding feasibility studies and experimental gear research, and has promised funds for building fish farm facilities and promoting and marketing the high value species slated for production. Proposals are cropping up throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, Washington and pressure is even building in Alaska.

The US President, George Bush, in his December 2004 response to the U.S. Oceans Commission Report issued an executive order creating an ocean committee within his Council on Environmental Quality and released his ocean action plan that includes the NOAA proposal promoting open ocean aquaculture (OOA) in the U.S. EEZ. Furthermore, although California, Oregon and Washington have banned production of GE fish in their waters, and Alaska bans finfish farming, state laws will be circumvented with placement of operations 3 miles or more offshore. For more information on the threats posed by offshore aquaculture, IATP has published a White Paper on Open Ocean Aquaculture.

Mark Vinsel, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, told the Juneau Empire (21st February) that his organization of 31 fishing groups opposes new federal legislation to allow offshore fish farms. Vinsel said offshore fish farms should not be allowed to adhere to “voluntary codes of conduct” as suggested by federal officials at NOAA. “We don't want fisheries managed that way,” he said. Richard Langan, director of New Hampshire's Cooperative Institute for New England Mariculture and Fisheries, sees only oceans of opportunity.

“There's a lot of real estate out in the ocean,” he told Alaska state employees and a handful of Juneau residents. Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said her organization adamantly opposes fish farms. “Setting aside the environmental issues, what kind of benefit does it provide to our state?” she told the Juneau Empire (25th February). “What benefit does it provide to our coastal communities?”