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International News, September 2006

  • Playing Russian Roulette with Norwegian Farmed Salmon
  • Germany goes wild for Alaskan salmon
  • The Fight Against British Columbia’s Salmon Farmers
  • Canadian cod research funded by Newfoundland/Labrador Government
  • Report of Feed Conversion Efficiency in Chilean salmon farming industry

NORWAY

Playing Russian Roulette with Norwegian Farmed Salmon

It is nearly a year since Russia banned the import of all Norwegian fresh salmon products. The ban was imposed when Russia’s food safety officers claimed that they had found dangerously high levels of lead (18mg/kg) and cadmium (0.7mg/kg) in Norwegian fish, a claim that the Norwegian fish farmers and authorities have vigorously denied.

The source of the problem seems to have been contaminated supplies of zinc sulphate, purchased from China and used as a pre-mixture in the preparation of animal and fish feeds. Batches of the contaminated feed were also sent to Scotland (see Northern Climes, May edition), Canada and the Faeroe Islands.

In April 2006, the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety announced that, in their opinion, there was no risk to food safety from these levels if exposure was less than four months.

Since then, whilst the Norwegians insist that there is no human health risk associated with their fresh farmed salmon products, the Russian authorities are equally adamant that there is and the ban remains in place. A report from the magazine Environmental Chemistry (June 2006) raised further alarm about the rigour of the Norwegian response to the crisis:

“The first week of December, when Russia notified Norway of contaminated fish, the [Norwegian] district veterinarians normally responsible for such an incident were called off the investigation and details on the Norwegian companies involved were made secret by the central administration of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NSFA).

“The handful of scientists that publicly questioned the safety of farmed salmon during this time were reprimanded by their state employers, subject to special comment by the NSFA together with state feed company EWOS, and were even called national traitors by the Norwegian Export Council for Fish.”

(The full report can be found at: http://www.growfish.com.au/content.asp?contentid=6695)

The latest twist in this sad tale was reported on 8th September by the industry news-sheet, Seafood Intelligence who reported that the Russians now threaten to ban all imports of all fish from Norway, because they claim that they have found 75 falsified certificates on Norwegian fish products exported to Russia. Norwegian Fisheries Minister Helga Pederson described the warning as ‘quite unreasonable’.

Amidst all this angst, none of those involved have thought to apologise to unsuspecting members of the public, in Russian, Scotland, Canada or the Faeroe Islands who might have, unknowingly, eaten Norwegian farmed salmon that could have been contained by dangerous levels of one of the worlds most toxic substances.

GERMANY

Germany goes wild for Alaskan salmon

Reports from the trade newspaper, IntraFish, say that German seafood firms are impressed by the high quality of wild Alaskan salmon, as compared to farmed salmon. The major German frozen fish producer, Frosta, sources most of their salmon from Alaska.

Earlier this year, a group of Alaskan fishery representatives visited Hamburg where they introduced Alaskan wild salmon and other Alaskan seafood products to a wide range of German seafood companies, including Gottfiried Friedrichs, Pickenpack, Royal Greenland and Frosta.

Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski said, “While some German entities may have been sceptical about wild Alaska seafood in the past, this market now demonstrates a tremendous potential for growth.”

Frosta was the first German brand to exclusively source its products from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries. The MSC certify sustainable fisheries, such as the Alaskan wild salmon fishery, and Frosta sales and marketing director Felix Ahlers commented: “We forget the original taste of food because of the added flavours and preservatives.”

CANADA

The Fight Against British Columbia’s Salmon Farmers

Alexandra Morton, and independent scientist and tireless campaigner to protect British Columbia’s (BC) wild salmon from the impact of disease and pollution from fish farms, has asked the Attorney General of British Columbia for permission to bring a private prosecution against the BC government and a fish farmer over their alleged involvement in the destruction of wild salmon stocks in the Broughton Archipelago. ("a href="documents/mortonsept06.doc" target="_blank">Download the letter of appeal).

Her action follows the BC Criminal Justice Branch decision not to proceed with charges she launched in 2005. The central question hinged on a legal definition: How can sea lice be ‘released’ if they have never been held in captivity in the first place? Ms Morton had argued that the release of sea lice from the Burdwood Farm in the Broughton Archipelago produced millions of sea lice that drifted out farm cages to infest wild salmon passing by on their migratory routes too and from their natal spawning grounds.

Her assertion was supported by an independent expert, Dr Frederick Whoriskey of the Atlantic Salmon Federation from St. Andrews in New Brunswick. Dr Whoriskey had been appointed by the court to study the scientific evidence Ms Morton had presented in support of her action. He agreed that wild salmon were being infected by fish farm sea lice, but said that is was difficult to implicate, specifically, to the Burdwood Farm.

In her letter to the BC Attorney General, Ms Morton said, “Academia, the public and now one of BC’s most highly respected legal minds agree with me; “lice contributed to the observed wild pink salmon decline” in the Broughton Archipelago. I laid the charges because neither Fisheries and Oceans Canada, nor the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has the will to deal with this issue effectively. The function of private prosecution is to “safeguard against inertia and partiality on the part of authority.”

Read more about Alexandra Morton in her Guest Column of June, 2003

Canadian cod research funded by Newfoundland and Labrador Government

In line with almost every other in the world were fish farming exists, the Newfoundland and Labrador Government is shelling out tax-payer cash to fund research into establishing cod farming. $350,000 is to be awarded to the project, led by Jane Symonds of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, and Sharen Bowman of Genome Atlantic.

The funding is part of an overall $18 million package to establish brood-stock cod ‘through the application of selective breeding and genomics’. Some, observers who recall the great days of the Grand Banks wild cod fishery, devastated by over-fishing and incompetent management, might wonder if the $18 million could be better applied to restoring it, rather than on producing cloned cod.

CHILE

Report of Feed Conversion Efficiency in Chilean salmon farming industry

The Terram Foundation has published a damning study on feed conversion efficiency in the Chilean salmon farming industry. The report was written by Francisco Pinto Giuliana Furci (Read also Giuliana Furci’s Guest Column contribution of September 2005).

Rodrigo Pizarro, Terram executive director, said: “The results [of the study] indicate that the feed conversion efficiency is around 10 to 1, that is nearly ten kilos of pelagic fish are required to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon. By the year 2013 nearly all the South Pacific pelagic fishery resource will be destined for the Chilean salmon industry. This poses an enormous risk and puts huge pressure on catch fisheries. This clearly shows how unsustainable this industry is at the moment.”

Report co-author Francisco Pinto commented, “It is urgent that the Chilean government ensures that future pressure on marine fisheries does not mean the complete depletion of the reduction fisheries in Chile and Peru. Current regulation is insufficient to ensure the sustainability of catch fisheries.” Ms Furci added, “The study puts the food-feed debate and food security at the centre of the international debate on salmon farming.”