The People’s Right to Know

by Kim Petersen / July 12th, 2010

The salmon farming industry continues to attempt to elude bad
publicity (stemming from its horrendous effect on the environment and
ecosystems, in particular, catastrophic plunges in wild salmon numbers)
through name calling and questioning the sources funding wild salmon
advocacy.1

Vivian Krause, a former employee of the salmon farming industry, and
Terence Corcoran, a journalist, continue to obfuscate the issue by
focusing on funding of wild salmon advocates. They maintain the public
has a right to know. I agree.

Recently, Krause took issue with wild salmon advocate Alexandra
Morton’s concern about sea lice from salmon farms.2 She refuted Morton’s research by appealing to
Terence Corcoran who wrote: “Morton’s research doesn’t show what she
says it does.” Krause and Corcoran like to refer back to each other in a
feedback loop for support. It is a bizarre tautology in which a former
salmon farmer refers back to a journalist and a journalist refers back
to a salmon farmer to refute science.

Furthermore, Krause accuses Morton of accepting money from American
sources and commercial fishing companies to do her research. “Commercial
fishing entities have an obvious interest in discrediting farmed fish
and thwarting aquaculture,” stated Krause.

Obviously, commercial fishers have an interest in protecting the wild
salmon from which they derive their livelihoods, and if salmon-farming
operations are implicated in massive declines in wild salmon numbers,
then yes, they have an obvious interest to protect.

Next Krause engages in conspiracy theorizing: “Is Morton’s research
part of a sophisticated marketing campaign paid for by U.S. foundations
to protect U.S. trade interests? The public has the right to know. If
Morton has nothing to hide, why doesn’t she disclose the origins of her
U.S. Funding?”

Krause even takes a shot at the science. She states that researchers
Martin Krkosek and Mark Lewis of the University of Alberta, issued a
press release claiming that “fish farms kill wild salmon” … This
quotation does not appear in the press release.3

Corcoran, Krause’s bookend, also takes exception with the press
release.4 He writes that the release
“claimed the study … proved that pink salmon populations have been
rapidly declining for four years.” He then quotes from the release: “The
scientists expect a 99% collapse in another four years or two salmon
generations, if the infestations continue.”

Corcoran claims:

Nothing of the sort has happened. Today, officials report
high levels of wild pink salmon in the areas of B.C. where a crisis
supposedly loomed. The level of sea lice, a natural parasite, is also
declining in both wild and farm salmon. The great salmon farming scare
proved to be a false alarm.

If Corcoran were a bona fide science journalist, then he would know
that in science nothing is proven. Scientists attempt to
disprove the null hypothesis. Besides, the press release does not use
the word “proven.”

One is led to surmise that Corcoran is either lacking in
understanding of the situation he writes about, or he is being
disingenuous since he did quote the press release correctly (unlike
Krause) wherein the researchers stated “if the infestations continue.”
This conditional clause failed to register with Corcoran. In the years
following the pink salmon crash, the salmon farmers have treated their
farmed salmon for sea lice with sub-lethal doses of the toxin Slice® in
spring to give the rivers’s out-migrating pink smolts a chance. The
obvious conclusion is that sea lice are a threat to pink salmon.

Morton denied the allegations of Krause.5

Is she implying we are all cheating for money?
Interesting. I think her point is that research into the impact of
salmon feedlots should not be done, nor published.

Morton’s reply has merit. Bizarrely, wealthy, foreign salmon-farming
corporations are trying to spotlight foreign money to wild salmon
advocates. This is despite Norway’s wealthiest man, John Fredriksen, a
part-owner of Marine Harvest, the world’s largest salmon-farming
corporation and an avid fisherman, admitting: “I am worried for the wild
salmon’s future. Fish farming should not be allowed in fjords with
salmon rivers.”6
Herein lies a quandary for corporate salmon farming: some of the
corporatists enjoy having wild salmon in the world.

Morton has a problem with salmon-farming operations that are
destructive of the marine environment and ecosystem, but she is not
opposed to aquaculture done right. Opposition would diminish immensely
to land-based salmon farms. Morton wrote, “Canada could be a leader in
sustainable aquaculture with abundant wild salmon. The longer the
industry resists change, the more fragile it becomes.”

Closed Containment in Canada?

The Norwegian ambassador to Canada, Else Berit Eikeland, spoke on
closed-containment.7
Eikeland said, “I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen. It’s probably
technically possible, but it’s not economically feasible. There have
been experiments in Norway, but it’s not possible.”

Or? Later she corrected herself: “Everything is possible… but the
investments would be a lot.”

With this came a warning: “But the next question is, if it’s going to
be closed containment, will the industry stay here, or will the
industry move closer to markets?”

It is all laid bare by the diplomat. Corporations seek to maximize
profit and, therefore, seek conditions in which they can maximize
profit. Open-net fish farming maximizes profit. This leads to what all
salmon farmers studiously avoid answering: does the precautionary
principle hold — that before an industry or technology comes into
operation that it be deemed safe for people, the environment, and
ecosystems.

Transparency

Eikeland called for transparency, openness, and research – “key
factors for the industry.”

Yet, secrecy still shrouds salmon farming data on sea-lice
infestation.8

The call for transparency comes from an industry that sees fit to
hire notorious PR flaks.9 Cascadia Communications Associates
asks:

In a properly working open society, the media would
report the story, people would read the evidence, environmental groups
and foundations would tell their side of the story, and the public would
decide what is true and whether it matters. Right?10

I agree. All sources of funding should be made public. How much was
Cascadia Communications Associates paid? Hill and Knowlton? Where does
the funding of the BC Salmon Farming Association come from? Where do
wild salmon advocates receive funding? The public has a right to know
which politicians are supported by money from salmon farming
corporations.

People has a right to access the data collected by their government
about salmon farming: sea-lice infestations, viral outbreaks, waste
produced by salmon farms, effects on the environment, escapes from fish
farms, successful spawning of farmed salmon in rivers and streams,
amount of antifoulants such as emamectin benzoate — Slice® — and other
anti-parasitics used, antibiotics used, type of feed, number of seals
and sea lions killed by fish farmers, contamination of marine
environment, etc.

Consumers have a right to know if the fish in the supermarket is
farmed or wild. In the restaurant, diners have the right to know whether
the salmon on the menu is farmed or wild. Furthermore, the consumer who
chooses to buy farmed salmon has a right to know if that farmed salmon
was treated with the toxin Slice®, pumped up with antibiotics, fed
Canthaxanthin (E161g) (artificial coloring), was genetically modified,
etc.

Final Comments

There is, indeed, plenty of evidence
of environmental NGOs collaborating with corporate interests, but it is
somehow perverse for a corporate entity like salmon farming or its
acolytes to complain about this. Nonetheless, people should maintain
some level of skepticism toward environmental NGOs. People should be
apprised about the amount of funding and how those funds are used by
environmental NGOs. These conditions must apply equally to corporations
and governments.

Wild salmon advocates are dedicated to the preservation of the wild
salmon and its habitat. Money received by wild salmon advocates should
have no influence on this goal. So the right-to-know-funding complaint
of the pro-corporate salmon farming sector is nugatory. Nonetheless,
transparency would remove this distraction and adhere to the principle
of the people’s right to know.

  • Self-disclosure: I receive no funding whatsoever from any
    salmon-related interest group.
    1. See Kim
      Petersen, “Salmon
      Propaganda
      ,” Dissident Voice, 3 September 2003. []
    2. Vivian Krause, “Money
      trail gets fishy
      ,” National Post, 3 July 2010. []
    3. See “Fish
      farms drive wild salmon populations toward extinction
      ,” ExpressNews,
      13 December 2007. []
    4. Terence Corcoran, “Junk
      Science Week: This science is fishy
      ,” FPComment, 17 June
      2010. []
    5. Alexandra Morton, “Land-based
      salmon is the answer
      ,” National Post, 8 July 2010. []
    6. Steng
      fjorden for oppdrett
      ,” Altaposten, 19 June 2007. Jeg er
      bekymret for villaksens fremtid. Det burde ikke vært tillatt med
      oppdrett i fjorder der det finnes lakseførende elver
      . []
    7. Grant Warkentin, “Norway’s
      ambassador calls for transparency in salmon farming
      ,” Campbell
      River Mirror
      , 6 July 2010. []
    8. David M. Lawrie, “What’s
      the government hiding on sea lice?
      Times Colonist, 8 July
      2010. []
    9. See Kim Petersen, “Farmageddon
      and the Spin-doctors
      ,” Dissident Voice, 29 March 2003. []
    10. Home page, “The dirty little secret of the
      campaign against salmon farming
      ,” Cascadia Communications
      Associates. Accessed 8 July 2010. []

    Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice.
    He can be reached at:
    kim@dissidentvoice.org.
    Read other
    articles by Kim
    .

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