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Tag Archives: Salmon

Take the blinders off

Alexandra Morton has proven again that she has her blinders on.

Blinders… because she shies at any ideas that do not match her own.

Morton is absolutely against salmon farms and has no time or interest in looking at any other avenues for enhancing wild salmon populations.

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Morton wields a great deal of power over the salmon are sacred group. Her influence and opinion is so powerful that even when her supporters do mention other man-made environmental problems they feel that they have to add fish farms to the list so they can still be in the “in” group.

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Overfishing, logging, mining, oil; all of these problems are man-made. West coasters who lived here in the 1950s-1970s saw the disastrous effects of poorly regulated logging, which destroyed salmon habitat up and down the coast, having long-term impacts on stocks. Getting rid of salmon farms would not do anything to improve or stop any of the effects from these much  larger and higher impact industries.

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Even when talking about a river that has no fish farms near it but has a myriad of other man-made issues they are still trying to blame salmon farms. If all this salmon love were put toward cleaning up the Fraser River imagine how happy the salmon would be. A nice clean place to spawn would do wonders for all species of salmon.

To borrow from Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth affecting salmon, Alexandra, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Opinion

 

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Liar Liar

The poem “liar liar pants on fire, hanging on a telephone wire” is one I remember from elementary school. It was a fun, albeit childish way to show that you didn’t believe what your friend was telling you.

I have learned some other versions since then. My favorite is “…your nose is longer than a telephone wire.” These lyrics come from a one hit wonder song by The Castaways.

The origins of the poem are lost in obscurity but one possible starting point is the poem “The Liar” by William Blake, written in 1810. The first line reads as follows:

“Deceiver, dissembler Your trousers are alight From what pole or gallows Shall they dangle in the night?”

Your trousers are alight!

As fascinating as I find etymology I am disappointed to see adults using this poem as a way to dismiss and belittle other people.

Mary Ellen Walling, The Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association is a common target for the people on the Salmon Are Sacred Facebook group. She is an easy target for this group because she is willing to take a positive stand for salmon farming in BC. Their response is to resort to elementary school tactics in order to show their opposition to what she has said.

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Canada is a free country; everyone has a right to state their opinion, even if it’s childish. It would be refreshing, however, to see differences of opinion expressed in a more mature and intelligent way.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Opinion

 

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Bullying – Not just for teenagers.

The topic of bullying has been the focus of B.C. news reports recently since a 15 year old girl tragically decided to take her life as a means to end the torment of bullying.

Because the victim of the bullying was a 15 year old the focus on how to deal with bullying and how to help victims has focused on teenagers and pre-teens. This is a topic that deserves a great deal of attention. Bullying has been around for as long as people have been around. People physically or verbally harm others to raise their own status with others.

However, the permanence and pervasiveness of the internet have radically changed bullying and its effects. A child can no longer change schools with the hope of starting fresh when the lies that have been told about them are out there for the whole world to see on websites that are hard if not impossible to delete.

Bullying is not a problem that affects only teenagers; it doesn’t necessarily end when you leave high school. There are workplace bullies that will make your working environment very unpleasant and there are (for lack of a better word) activist bullies. I would define activist bullies as those people or groups who use defamatory comments to state their negative viewpoints about an industry or business.

Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state.

Such is the case with the recent defamation case between a local B.C. fish farming company and a vocal protester. The case is titled: Mainstream Canada v. Staniford, 2012 BCSC 1433. The trial was held in late January and early February of 2012, the judgment was made on September 28, 2012.

Protester Don Staniford created false cigarette covers depicting farmed salmon as causing cancer and killing people, among other statements, and then posted them on his website. The Norwegian flag was used as the backdrop for these messages. Mainstream Canada is owned by Cermaq and the majority share holder of Cermaq is the Norwegian government. Since Staniford was in B.C. at the time of the publication and he was using images from B.C., Mainstream Canada felt that this was a direct attack on them and thus brought this defamation lawsuit to court. The judge agreed that Staniford was targeting Mainstream.

The bullying didn’t end with the cigarette covers. Staniford is a long-time protester of the salmon farming industry and often uses crass, cruel and mocking language when referring to the industry and anyone who would support it.

His reply to the lawsuit and the requests to have the images removed from his website show the contempt he has for the industry.

When Mainstream Canada – a Norwegian-owned outfit – demanded he take his website down, the service provider did so. But Staniford sent back a copy of one of his spoof cigarette packages, “with a picture of a fist with a raised middle finger.”

This contempt was noted by Judge Adair.

The judge summarized her extensive analysis of Mr. Staniford’s statements in the following passage (at para. 198):

… Mr. Staniford does not in fact do anything to conceal the spite, ill-will and contempt he holds for industrial aquaculture and salmon farming in general, and Mainstream … in particular. I think the evidence is overwhelming in this regard. Mr. Staniford’s Internet postings are filled with insulting and demeaning comments and cruel caricatures. He ignores and disdainfully dismisses peer-reviewed science (…) when the conclusions conflict with his own views. The language in his publications – including the mock cigarette packages in particular – is extreme, inflammatory, sensationalized, extravagant and violent. The word “kills” is everywhere.

Staniford used “Fair Comment” as his defense in this case and the judge accepted this defense.

[202]     Although I have concluded that Mr. Staniford’s statements are defamatory of Mainstream, I have concluded that he should succeed on his defence of fair comment.  I have found that he was actuated by express malice towards Mainstream.  However, I have found that he had an honest belief in the statements he made, and injuring Mainstream because of spite or animosity was not his dominant purpose in publishing the words in issue.

A blog posting on the Positive Aquaculture Awareness website sums it up well:

The decision that wrong, derogatory statements are allowed to stand because someone’s disillusion is strong enough is terribly disappointing for salmon farmers.

Geoff Plant, B.C.’s former Attorney General, who lists his occupation as Lawyer, recovering politician and learner, has written an interesting blog post (called The Plant Rant) about this case. He notes that:

Reflect again on Mr. Staniford’s statements, and ask yourself what it would be like to be an employee of Mainstream and its parent company, carrying on lawful businesses, companies which the trial judge said, “model the behavior of a responsible corporate citizen”.  Mr. Staniford launches a highly public campaign. Its message, shouted from the rooftops, is that the product you make kills people.  You are personally demeaned and ridiculed for appearing as a witness in court on behalf of your employer.   What you learn is this: in our democracy, free speech is more valued than decency, fairness, self-respect, self-restraint, intellectual integrity, or responsibility.  And when it comes to public debate, the law rewards the most outrageous and hurtful among us.  It’s a harsh lesson, I think.

Plant also makes the point that, with rulings such as this one, there seems to be little the law can do to protect people from bullies.

A recent decision of the BC Supreme Court provides a powerful illustration of how vulnerable we are to public criticism, no matter how vicious, and how little there is that the law will do to stop it.

This is a blatant case of bullying and Mainstream Canada has chosen to stand up to the bully and has filed an appeal to the ruling.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in News, Opinion

 

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Alaskan salmon: Product of China

The package of salmon burgers sure looks appealing. I came across one similar during my last visit to Costco.

Front and centre is a delicious-looking burger, with lots of eco-labels on it to make us feel better about what we’re buying (for more info on eco-lables visit our posting on the subject: The Gospel of Seafood). If we’re lucky the package will have an old-timey picture of a fishing boat on it somewhere, or perhaps a white-bearded grizzled smiling man in a rainslicker. Yellow, of course.

The package goes out of its way to make sure we know that it is made from “ALASKAN” salmon, even mentioning it twice with the added notation that it is also “WILD.” It’s very well presented, and inside the package is a delicious and wholesome product, no doubt about that part.

But there’s some context missing.

These salmon burgers have travelled an awfully long way.

For some of our readers, Alaska is a long way away, but we’re talking even farther.

These burgers come from fish which are so well-travelled they should carry passports.

These burgers come from fish which were caught in Alaska and frozen at sea. The fish (packaged as head-on, gutted whole fish) were then shipped to a factory in China.

There, the fish were thawed, and cut into fillets. Chinese workers pulled out the pin bones by hand from the thawed fillets. The fillets were turned into salmon burgers, then re-frozen and repackaged.

They were then put in a box and sent all the way back across the Pacific Ocean to the USA and Canada to our grocery stores.

Alaskan pink salmon is frozen at sea, and shipped to China where it is thawed. Workers in the Chinese factory pull out the pin bones by hand, fillet the fish and then convert it into value-added products to be re-frozen and shipped back to the USA.

This has been going on since 2003, when Alaskan seafood producers realized they needed to do something different to increase their profits. As discussed in our posting Profits First!, farmed salmon had flooded the market in the 1990s, driving down the price of all salmon and making it available fresh all year round. Many North Americans made salmon a more regular part of their diet because of farmed salmon. However, this meant Alaskan fishermen saw a big drop in their profits, especially after the booming 1980s, when the Alaskan fishery was worth $800 million (ex-vessel value, the price fishermen get for their fish). Fishermen saw an all-time high for ex-vessel prices in 1988 that has never been matched since.

In order to compete after struggling through the 1990s, Alaskan seafood producers decided to increase their presence in the value-added market. To keep their costs low, they decided to outsource to China. It worked so well that today most of the big-name Alaskan seafood products you find in the frozen food section were processed in China. See the list on page 15 of this document for specifics.

“Something that would cost us $1 per pound labor here, they get it done for 20 cents in China.” — Charles Bundrant, founder of Trident Seafoods, 2005.

Thousands of American processing jobs were lost. But Alaskan seafood producers survived. And American consumers generally had no idea the salmon burgers they were eating had traveled 8,000 miles to China and back, because seafood wasn’t included in Country of Origin Labelling requirements until 2009.

Today, you might see tiny print on that bag of salmon burgers which states the country of origin as USA in big, bold letters, but also includes much smaller letters declaring it “processed in China.”

It’s another one of Alaska’s little white lies about salmon.

To see more pictures of how frozen fish are packaged, shipped, thawed, processed and re-frozen to ship back to the USA, and to Europe, take a look at this presentation. The pictures begin on page 22.

“The tide for the Alaska salmon industry has turned, and the Chinese are the reason.” — Peter Redmayne, Seafood Business magazine 2006.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Opinion

 

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Profits first!

This is part three in a three part series on Alaskan salmon ranching. Click link to view part 1: Alaska’s Little White Lie and part 2: Hatchery Fish Are Not Wild.

Fishermen don’t catch fish out of the goodness of their hearts. They do not gently whisper to each fish, “you’re sustainable,” as they yard them into their holds. They endure long unpleasant days at sea and hard work for the paycheque that comes at the docks. That has not changed since people started catching fish, and the history of fishing in the Pacific Ocean is no different.

And not surprisingly, the roots of the wild versus farmed salmon dichotomy are firmly and deeply financial. To understand it, we need to look at the history.

Alaska: Turning point 1972

Commercial fishing in Alaska began in earnest at the end of the 19th century. Catches grew rapidly with the expansion of cannery capacity through 1920. This intensity led to overfishing. Low stocks led President Eisenhower to declare Alaska a federal disaster area in 1953. This state of emergency, labeled a severe hardship to salmon industry, was declared for 3 consecutive years.

View of men unloading salmon from fishing boat at cannery in Bristol Bay, Alaska. 1950’s

Alaska achieved statehood in 1959. Written into the state constitution is a policy of sustainable yield which applies to the use of all replenishable resources. The new constitution, as well as a new federal interest in financially supporting commercial fishing in the north, led to a recovery in the stocks and a decade of productive harvests.

But in the 60’s, B.C. and Alaska fishermen were competing with fishing boats from the USSR, Japan and even Poland. The development of new fishing technologies and the foreign fishing fleets competing for fish in the North Pacific led to overfishing and a record low catch in 1972 in Alaska and low catches elsewhere in the world.

Since the 1970s, the situation has improved. Stricter permits, the creation of the 200 mile economic exclusion zone and the creation of private non profit hatcheries (salmon ranching) has led to the extremely high salmon catches experienced today in Alaska.

But high salmon catches do not mean people are acting to protect salmon stocks for the environment’s sake. Fisheries, like all industries, are concerned with profits. The state of emergency in the 50’s was not a call to protect the environment; protecting the jobs of fishermen was more important. The same is true for the decline in the 70’s. In Alaska, the only desire to replenish the salmon stocks using large scale hatcheries was so that there were more available to catch, can and sell.

“It [The hatchery program] was intended to supplement, not supplant, wild stock production.”

The problems with hatcheries, such as loss of genetic diversity, were a concern to some in the 70’s but the priority was jobs, not the environment.

“Governor, I’m sure the proper ‘genetics’ of salmon are important. However, I’ll wager that if our fishermen have to make a choice between salmon with the wrong ‘genetics’ or no salmon at all they’ll not worry that much about the salmon’s parents or where he came from,” state Rep. Oral Freeman of Ketchikan wrote to Gov. Jay Hammond in 1975.”

It was around this time that the largest oil field in North America was found in northern Alaska and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was built.This meant that Alaska had more government money to fund projects such as hatcheries which were government-run at first and only later were run as public non profit enterprises.

Commercial fishermen in areas with large hatchery programs have benefited greatly, however, fishermen from other areas of Alaska may have been harmed due to the depressed prices from the larger volumes of fish that are available.

“Many hatcheries are not viable without continuing state subsidies.The Alaska salmon hatchery programme is neither obviously an economic success nor obviously an economic failure.

B.C.: Aquaculture becomes attractive

From California to B.C. salmon harvests were nowhere near as high as in Alaska and hatcheries were having a limited effect. In the 1970s, inspired by the success in other parts of the world, people started looking at aquaculture to provide coastal communities with other options to replace the slowly, but surely, declining commercial fisheries.Salmonids (Rainbow trout, Salmo gairdneri, and Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar) were being cultured in seawater in Scandinavia, the British Isles and Japan as early as 1969.

“Losses of salmon stocks from damming, logging, pollution, etc., coupled with the rising demand for salmon as food, have led to extensive investment in artificial propagation to augment the natural runs. During the last 100 years, salmon hatcheries on the Pacific coast of the United States have evolved into expensive systems under constant economic scrutiny. In many areas rising capital costs and the limited fresh water will prevent much new construction or expansion of salmon hatcheries. Therefore, to expand the present levels of production we must seek new, economical methods of salmon culture.

Aquaculture on the west coast started in Washington but quickly expanded into B.C.

Alaska turns to marketing in 1981 after health scare

ASMI – Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

The desire to create a wholesome image and worldwide markets for Alaska’s seafood products spawned the creation of ASMI in 1981.

This wholesome image was needed after problems arose in 1980 and 1981 when there were reported cases of botulism infection and one death due to botulism in Belgium. The source of the spores was linked to Alaskan canned salmon. At this time canning salmon was the best way to ship the product worldwide. Flattened cans were shipped to the cannery and were reformed in a machine before the salmon was placed inside and sealed. It is believed that a defect may have been caused in the plant by the can reforming equipment. This may have caused tears in the edges of the can which allowed botulism spores to enter the can. There was a large recall of the product and there were many economic repercussions from this incident.

ASMI started its career when it launched a canned salmon recovery program. Since that time ASMI has evolved into a very powerful marketing group.

“The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is a marketing organization with the mission of increasing the economic value of the Alaska seafood resource… ASMI is playing a key role in the repositioning of Alaska’s seafood industry as a competitive market-driven food production industry. Its work to boost the value of Alaska’s seafood product portfolio is accomplished through partnerships with retail grocers, foodservice distributors, restaurant chains, foodservice operators, universities, culinary schools, and the media.”

Interestingly, the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association was established shortly afterwards in 1984.

The BC Salmon Farmers Association is a forum for communication and cooperation within the salmon farming sector, and the focal point for liaison between the industry and government. We also provide information to the public and stakeholders about salmon farming, and coordinate industry-wide activities such as a Code of Practice, research, and community events. Our members include both farmed salmon producers, and many of the companies who provide services and supplies to them.”

Here is a case-in-point in the farmed vs wild dichotomy. The BCSFA is painted with a negative brush because it represents “industry” yet the ASMI is applauded by some because it supposedly represents wild seafood interests. But the truth is, both groups represent industries and are equally concerned with the economics surrounding those industries.

90’s – Farmed Salmon makes a splash

Wild salmon dominated the market in the 80’s and experienced record high prices in 1988. At this point farmed salmon entered the market in large volumes.

Commercial salmon farming began in Norway, Washington, Scotland, and British Columbia in the 1970s, but  was not a factor in world markets until the mid-1980s, when production reached 50,000 tons. By 1990, farm production had quintupled to more than 250,000 tons. In 1999, world farm salmon production for the first time surpassed salmon fishery production.”

With the increase in production came a decrease in the market value of salmon, and an end to the “good old days” of the 1980s, when Alaskan fishermen received nearly 1.5 billion (in 2011 dollars) for their harvest.

Fresh salmon available year-round forces market changes

Once farmed salmon became a commodity available year-round to customers, people changed the way they purchase, store and eat salmon. In general, people gradually started eating more salmon year-round. This presented a challenge for fishermen, who have only a short window of time to catch, process and sell salmon.

Generalizations about effects of farmed salmon on “wild” salmon prices risk being overly simplistic and  misleading.

The most important factor driving change in world salmon prices has been rapid and sustained growth in world farmed salmon and salmon trout production. This has fundamentally transformed world salmon markets—not only because of the dramatic growth in total supply, but also because of the changes that it has represented in the kinds of salmon products which are available, the timing of production, market quality standards and organization of the industry.”

Some wild salmon products sell for lower prices than farmed salmon, while others command price premiums.

Many other factors besides farmed salmon have also affected wild salmon prices. These include:
• Increasing concentration in the retail and food service industries
• Increased world pink and chum salmon harvests
• Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of Russian wild salmon as a significant competitor to North American wild salmon in the Japanese frozen market and world canned salmon and salmon roe markets
• Declining consumer demand for canned salmon
• The end of the Japanese “bubble” economy of the 1980s and a stubborn economic recession in Japan, historically the most valuable market for North American fresh and frozen wild salmon.”

“They [countries that support aquaculture] recognized significant market growth potential and that wild salmon fisheries could not adequately supply the market with uniform fresh salmon of consistently high quality year round. As a result, farmed salmon created a market in the United States and Europe that wild salmon could not supply.

As a fresh product, farmed salmon received a price premium compared to most frozen wild salmon.”

Turn of the new century

Alaska, where the economy is crucially dependent on fisheries, struggled to adapt to new market realities.

Salmon price changes have also severely impacted incomes in Alaska… At current levels of production, each 10 cent per pound decline in salmon prices translates to $66 million in lost income for Alaskan fishermen.”

2002 was a particularly bad year for the market price of salmon.

“Back in 2002, the government of Alaska requested that the BC government keep the moratorium on fish farms until the safety of Alaska’s own wild salmon stocks can be guaranteed. The request reads as follows:

FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature requests the United States Department of State, while negotiating trade agreements with Canada and in the arena of the Pacific Salmon Commission negotiations on the Pacific Salmon Treaty, to consider the numerous negative effects that farmed salmon from British Columbia have on the economy, environment, and fishing industry of Alaska.”

Notice that “economy” comes before “environment” in this official request. Profits are important for any industry, whether that be wild salmon fisheries or salmon aquaculture. In both cases ignoring the environmental impacts would be detrimental to their products and their bottom lines. The truth is that “wild” salmon coming from “pristine” Alaskan waters are part of a billion dollar a year industry that has a vested interest in the market as much as any multinational corporation.

Large profit losses were felt in Alaska due to the decline in the value of salmon. This directly affected coastal communities and those employed in the fishing industry. It is understandable that there are some bad feelings from Alaska toward salmon farming. In 2002 one angry fisherman wrote an email to the ASMI stating his grievances. The email he wrote is not available but the response letter from the ASMI Director Ray Riutta does comment on the question of “Why ASMI Doesn’t Bash Farmed Fish?”:

“As to attacking farm salmon directly, there is more to the issue than
you may realize.  And ASMI does a lot more behind the scenes then you
are probably aware of.  Why don’t we come out and conduct a frontal
assault on farmed?  Well, it is pretty simple.  Two reasons: the first
is the most practical and it is that most of the large retail food
chains that sell our salmon also sell farmed salmon. It would be nice if
all they sold was our fish, but that is not the way it is so we have to
deal with the reality of the market place. In order for them to sell
“fresh” salmon fillets year round they have little choice.  In many
cases farmed is by far the larger of the two product lines they sell in
terms of volume and profit margin.  They do not expect their wholesaler
(that’s us) to be openly attacking other products they sell.  If we do
we face loosing the accounts which are worth literally millions of
dollars to our industry and would further depress the already low price
you receive for you fish.

The second is a fundamental marketing rule and that is direct attack ads
by people with similar products generally do not work.  They only
confuse the public and end up with both sides loosing market share.
They are seen as self-serving and lack credibility with the general
public.  In our case, it is far more credible to leave the attack to
third parties, such as environmental groups and newspaper columnists,
then it is for us to come out and do it ourselves. We can then leverage
that information with a marketing campaign pointing out the positive
aspects of our fish using the bad things about farmed fish as our points
of difference.  And that is exactly what we are doing.  In addition, we
are helping the people that sell our products or use them in restaurants
understand the differences in wild and farmed fish, which includes
showing them the material that is being generated by the
environmentalists and the media. We also have been working with a number
of environmental groups and media for several years now pointing out the
purity and sustainability of our salmon, which helps them make their
points about the difference in wild verses farmed fish.

We do intend to be aggressive in taking advantage of the current trend
against farmed and in favor of wild salmon at every opportunity, but we
are going to do it in a positive way.  By that I mean we will emphasize
the many good things (purity, health benefits, environmentally friendly,
sustainable runs, small family businesses) about our fish and leave it
to others to emphasize the bad things about farmed fish.  This is a
position that is strongly endorsed by our board, half of whom are
harvesters, like you, and is constantly reviewed to be sure it is the
best way to conduct our business.”

Most of the “bad things ” about farmed fish have been given wide attention through exaggerations and lies told by environmentalists (often through the media) included levels of PCB’s in farmed salmon, sea lice issues, and most recently disease issues.

And Alaskan seafood companies have repeated these claims verbatim, bashing farmed salmon in their promotional material. Because if environmentalists say it, it must be true, right?

Alaskan seafood companies have also been aggressive in passing this information along to media and other sources, “working behind the scenes” to ensure farmed salmon is associated with “bad things” in people’s minds.

For an example, take a look at the comprehensive study of the money trail and the lies behind the 2004 Hites study about PCBs. Read Research on Contaminants in Farmed Salmon:Science or Marketing? by Vivian Krause. For papers regarding sea lice and other issues related to salmon farming visit the BC Salmon Farmers Association. For an in depth look at the recent salmon disease stories being told by environmentalists visit Salmon Farm Science.

Everybody loses

What marketers bashing farmed salmon need to remember is that when farmed salmon are portrayed negatively in the media the value of all salmon diminishes.

“The salmon industry was hurt by negative publicity following publication in the scientific press earlier this year of studies alleging certain health risks associated with farmed salmon. This general perception affected both our retail and food service salmon sales, even though the majority of salmon sold by High Liner is wild pacific salmon.”

It is important to realize that the competition is not fresh Alaskan vs. fresh farmed salmon. It is frozen and canned versus fresh.

Alaskan salmon is still mostly sold canned or frozen or in some other value-added product such as salmon burgers. Fresh farmed salmon is a great product for restaurants and supermarkets. Niche markets for wild salmon and frozen and value-added markets (where wild salmon can compete on lower cost production) is where Alaska will profit the most in the growing diversified market place.

ASMI has been very successful promoting their frozen product with the “Cook It Frozen!” campaign. Marketing such as this and value added products are how Alaska can continue to profit from wild salmon harvests instead of encouraging a negative campaign through environmental groups.

Like many industries, in order to save money and increase profits, Alaskan salmon is being shipped to China to be processed before being returned to the US and sold as a “made in the USA” product. For a closer look at this topic see our post Alaskan salmon: Product of China.

The Future: SUV of the seafood aisle

An excerpt from “Why farm salmon outcompete fishery salmon” written by academics from Stanford University in California makes an interesting point about the place of wild (fishery) salmon in the market.

“Just as US automakers may never be able to outcompete Japanese manufacturers in the small car sector, fishery salmon will probably never be able to outcompete farm salmon on consistency and availability. However, fishery salmon should be able to thrive as the sport utility vehicle of the seafood aisle: a different, though more expensive and slightly less reliable product.

In the document Alaska Seafood Market Changes and Challenges Gunnar Knapp makes some interesting points about the implications aquaculture have for wild seafood markets and he has some great advice about how the two industries should work together.

Aquaculture has far-reaching implications for wild seafood markets.
• Aquaculture competes with wild production
– Aquaculture expands supply which tends to lower prices
– Aquaculture creates new standards for quality, consistency and availability
• Aquaculture expands demand for fish
– Aquaculture makes fish more widely available
– Aquaculture introduces consumers to fish species
– Aquaculture creates new products
– Aquaculture invests in marketing
– By expanding total demand, aquaculture can expand demand for wild fish as
a “natural” alternative to farmed fish—if wild fish is marketed effectively.
• Aquaculture changes seafood market dynamics
– As wild production becomes a smaller part of total supply, prices don’t
increase as much when wild catches fall
– Aquaculture creates price cycles similar to those for meat and poultry
– Over time, fish prices trend downwards as farming costs fall allowing farmed
production to expand.
– Large scale aquaculture production creates new distribution channels for
seafood
– Aquaculture changes the balance of economic and political power in the
seafood Industry

“Part of the opportunity to increase demand for Alaska salmon is to get more consumers to eat SALMON.
• The more salmon consumers there are, the more wild salmon consumers there will be.
• We should be seriously considering working together with salmon farmers for generic promotion of all salmon.”

Sadly this advice was given in 2003 and to date has not been followed. These two industries are spread between many different countries; it is unlikely that we can expect cooperation in the future.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Opinion, Series

 

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Mean girls (and boys)

Mean girls

Anti-salmon farming fanatics’ bullying and shaming tactics are like a trip back to middle school.

While North American democracy has its flaws it does have one enduring quality: freedom of expression/speech. The U.S.A. and Canada have different ways of expressing rights and freedoms but the intention is the same in each case.

USA: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Canada: Section 2(b) of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] states that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Freedom of expression promotes certain societal values, as noted by Professor Emerson in 1963: “Maintenance of a system of free expression is necessary (1) as assuring individual self-fulfillment, (2) as a means of attaining the truth, (3) as a method of securing participation by the members of the society in social, including political, decision-making, and (4) as maintaining the balance between stability and change in society.”

Protesting plays an important part in our society. The ability to express your opinion with the hope of being heard by other parties and causing change is the motivation behind acts of protest. The problem arises when expressing your opinion is done in a way that breaks the law (causing possible harm to people or property) or when bullying is used to ostracize a person, government party, religion, company or industry.

There are many groups who have shown their disapproval of salmon farming in B.C. (and other industries such as logging and mining) with a very loud voice to a very big audience (i.e. David Suzuki Foundation, Green Peace etc.). They often share false or twisted facts and sometimes used questionable means of expression but they at least have some accountability for their actions.

The same cannot be said for the group Salmon are Sacred (SAS). While technically leaderless, the organization of the group is handled by 2 people (as listed on their website): Alexandra Morton and Anissa Reed. This organization has a very active public Facebook page (it can be read by anyone but you have to be accepted in order to comment) and Morton has her own blog that SAS shares openly. By claiming to be “leaderless” SAS does not have to be accountable for the actions of its members. Each person acts “independently” and others can choose to join those actions or not.  But the truth is that Reed and Morton are the organizers, they are the “popular” girls in the clique that the other kids aspire to and want to impress. As with many popular girls in middle and high school, their popularity is amplified by bullying tactics.

“According to research done by Lagerspetz, Bjorqvist and Peltonen at the University of Miami, when girls bully they use things like alienation, ostracism, deliberate and calculated random exclusions, and spreading of rumors to harass their peers.[1]

There is no question that SAS and its close associates ostracize salmon farmers. Their only goal is to shut down salmon farming all together. Some claim that they want to see closed containment aquaculture but many don’t want to see any form of salmon aquaculture at all.

The bullying is not just against salmon farmers around the world but also toward this group’s “peers.” Who are their peers? People who are concerned about the environment and would like to feel they are part of a group who is actively engaged in something. How are they bullied? In subtle ways.

“Girls get other kids to gang up on one or more peers as a way of exerting control. Sometimes they incite other children to act out aggressively and sit back to watch the show… They form alliances with other social groups in an effort to jockey for popularity and positions of power among peers. All too often the bullying tactics used by girls are brushed off as cruel but normal social interactions.

While it is normal for girls and boys to form social groups and close bonds with certain people at the exclusion of others it becomes bullying when those groups make power plays over other groups or individuals. Having friends is one thing; having friends who work to make others feel that they are not good enough to be included is another. Playing the popularity game in a way that causes fear or inadequacy in others is a form of bullying and it is a common tactic used by girls.”[1]

One recent example of the emotional manipulation, rumor milling and fact falsifying is a petition posted by Morton on change.org.

“Recently, I received lab results showing that large supermarket chains are selling farmed salmon that are testing positive for salmon flu virus and the salmon heart virus. I am horrified to think that my friends are feeding their children infected fish.”

This is the misinformation Morton and her friends try to use to manipulate people into feeling that her opinions are right and everyone who disagrees with her is wrong (even if they have scientific data to back them up.) If you want to be her friend, you must believe what she says and do what she says and in this case don’t feed your children “infected fish.”

But someone with a science degree should know that every fish, every animal, every plant, the air you breath and the water you drink all contain viruses. Farmed salmon are no exception, and neither are wild salmon. As wild salmon grow in fresh and salt water they pass viruses and diseases back and forth with other wild fish, freshly hatched and returning to spawn. When they head out into salt water, they are carrying viruses when they pass salmon farms, possibly infecting the farmed fish (which are entered into the ocean virus-free). And what’s even more of a factor, the ocean is naturally full of viruses everywhere. Viruses are the most abundant form of life on this planet, including in the ocean. That means that the wild fish you just bought for dinner is full of viruses!

The emotional manipulation of “I am horrified to think that my friends are feeding their children infected fish” is just plain ridiculous. The language in these scare tactics is outrageous:

 “I am trying to protect our children from industrial viruses in our food that are being kept secret… Although we are told these viruses cannot reproduce in human body temperatures, we also know that flu viruses mutate in feedlots and have a history of becoming dangerous, so we want to know when we are taking that risk…. No one knows what these powerful Atlantic salmon viruses will do to the wild salmon of the Pacific; they are unpredictable. In Chile, ISA virus became more virulent and spread faster than was known possible.”

She is implying that if you feed your kids farmed Atlantic salmon you are a bad parent because of what you are exposing them to. This is a logical fallacy much like the loaded question “when did you stop beating your wife” intended to bully someone into accepting your point of view.

The CFIA tests food all across Canada. They have the final word on farmed animal health, yet Morton suggests they are liars. If you are not willing to accept when the CFIA says farmed salmon is safe to eat than you can’t believe anything the agency says about the safety of the food you buy.  If you are willing to trust that the burgers you grill on the BBQ this summer are safe for your family then you can trust that the salmon you just bought is also safe for your family.

Morton also uses the term “powerful Atlantic salmon viruses” but doesn’t explain what she means. Powerful how? She uses emotion to create fear and doubt and imply that there is some kind of conspiracy or cover-up and only she has the truth. It is a power play to get everyone to listen to her and follow her.

“Girls bully by using emotional violence. They do things that make others feel alienated and alone. Some of the tactics used by girls who bully include:

  • anonymous prank phone calls or harassing emails from dummy accounts

[or petitions full of false information, letters to government representatives, also with false information…]

  • playing jokes or tricks designed to embarrass and humiliate
  • deliberate exclusion of other kids for no real reason
  • whispering in front of other kids with the intent to make them feel left out

[writing blogs attacking people but not publishing comments that disagree with your point of view]

Yelling at someone to go home before they have had a chance to share their point of view does not encourage open communication.

  • name calling, rumor spreading and other malicious verbal interactions

[Facebook, protest signs, blogs]

  • being friends one week and then turning against a peer the next week with no incident or reason for the alienation

[claiming to want to help the industry change but being unwilling to have an open dialog that doesn’t include shutting the industry down]

  • encouraging other kids to ignore or pick on a specific child

Encouraging others to post the petition full of false and inflammatory information on every Facebook page imaginable…

  • inciting others to act out violently or aggressively” [1]

Carrying signs with anti-Norwegian slogans and blocking a bus full of Norwegians who are trying to attend a meeting on salmon farming in B.C. – not an act of peaceful protest.

“Girls will choose a victim and identify what is most important to that child. They will then focus on ways to damage, sabotage, or disrupt what is important to the child. The goal of this activity is to gain power over the victim through isolation, humiliation, and control of her interactions with others.” [2]

This sounds really familiar… replace child with industry and it sounds like behaviour seen recently. Entering bio-security areas to take video and protest a farm with an identified virus, interfering with staff who are trying to off-load fish under quarantine situations, filling the media and internet with more fallacies and fear, all in an attempt to have fish farms shut down forever.

“This is often accomplished by encouraging other children not to be friends with the child, spreading rumors, cyber-bullying, and bullying by text. Some girls will even encourage other children to join in with the bullying. Girl bullies can wield this type of power because they can be quite charming and popular on the surface. Others are naturally attracted to that charisma and want to be friends. The girl bullies then manipulate people in those relationships. The bully’s accomplices are sometimes unaware of what they are being drawn into until they are socially entrapped. They carry out the bully’s instructions and mimic her behaviors because they do not want to become victims themselves.” [2]

“I am so sorry, please don’t hate me, really I am on your team, it was just a mistake, I would never speak out against you…” Feeling the peer pressure?

Sadly there are many people who have bought into SAS and Morton’s emotional and fear-mongering appeals and will blindly talk about sea-lice and disease transfer as major problems and examples of why fish farms should be removed from B.C. waters — yet never bother to research any information contrary to what Morton says. If they tried to think for themselves, they would find out that sea lice is naturally occurring in wild salmon and that there is no evidence of higher mortalities of salmon related to sea lice. They would also learn about how diseases are transferred and that there is no evidence of “amplification” or “mutation” of diseases from fish farms threatening wild fish (who naturally carry viruses and diseases and migrate and spawn in the millions in river systems while fingerling salmon are still growing).

These are not the words of a peaceful protester convincing me with logical arguments that her opinion is worth listening to.

Here are some more tactics used by girl bullies that sound similar to actions taken over the years by Morton and other supporters of Salmon Are Sacred.

  • Becoming friends with the intended victim to gain access to information about them that can later be used to hurt them.
  • Encouraging others to not be friends with the victim.
  • Encouraging others to bully the victim by calling her names or taking part in elaborate schemes that will result in the child being publicly humiliated or punished.
  • Making others ignore the child.
  • Spreading rumors.
  • Breaking up any friendships the child victim attempts to form.
  • Gossiping about the child or the child’s friends or family. [2]

On the Salmon are Sacred website they have posted a code of conduct for their supporters. These are great things to strive for and if they really did follow this code online and in the real world this blog would not be necessary.

Peaceful Direct Action Code

  1. Our attitude is one of openness, friendliness and respect towards all beings we encounter.
  2. We will use no violence, verbal or physical, toward any being.
  3. We will not damage any property and will discourage others from doing so.
  4. We will strive for an atmosphere of calm and dignity.
  5. We will carry no weapons.
  6. We will not bring or use alcohol or drugs.

Looking at the comments on their Facebook page in the last few days shows that they do not apply or enforce either #1 or #4.

Around the same time Morton posted her petition, Annie Paddle posted a petition against Morton’s conduct with regards to herfalse and misleading statements about the industry” and her violations of bio security that were put in place to deal with the IHN virus.

SAS followers are claiming this petition is a personal attack against Morton and (ironically) an act of bullying. The problem with their assertions are that Morton has isolated herself as an activist willing to go to extremes to get public attention and get her point across. She is not being picked on because she is an easy target but she is being focused on because she goes to great lengths to be the most well known anti-fish farm activist in B.C. and while claiming to want the best for the wild salmon she more interested in pointing blame.

For people who say they want free speech they are sure not being generous to opposing points of view.

Which petition has the false information?

Here is another shining example of how some people think freedom of speech is only for people whose opinions you agree with:

Criminals? What law is being broken? Just because people disagree with you doesn’t make them criminals.

Salmon Are Sacred do not shy away from isolating people from the crowd and calling them names, poking fun at clothing, gloating like Grade 9s over spelling mistakes, or plainly and simply saying that those peoples’ opinions do not have any merit. Two people who have been singled out this time are Laurie Jansen and Hereditary clan Chief Harold Sewid. I have screen captures of some of the comments made on the SAS Facebook page but they are so malicious that I don’t want to share them here. It reads like a group of teenage girls huddled around talking about another girl. Kind of like this:

“Baby Got Back”

[Intro]
Oh, my, god. Becky, look at her butt.
It is so big. [scoff] She looks like,
one of those rap guys’ girlfriends.
But, you know, who understands those rap guys? *scoff*
They only talk to her, because,
she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like,
out there, I mean – gross. Look!
She’s just so … black!

These types of comments are not reserved for Facebook either. Paddle’s petition itself has had many nasty comments by people who agreed to the petition solely so that they could comment against it.

It is clear that Salmon are Sacred is a group of hypocrites. They are against salmon farms because they believe they harm the wild fish but they are willing to violate bio security measures, risking spreading virus to the wild fish they claim must be protected from any and all risks, in order to get their story. They claim an attitude of openness, friendliness and respect towards all beings they encounter but shriek at and abuse anyone who disagrees with them. They say they want free speech but when the pro-fish farming people speak up they are told to shut up and go home. These fanatics need to see that their actions are not acts of peaceful protest but are open and aggressive acts of bullying.

 
31 Comments

Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Opinion

 

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Alaska’s little white lie

The dichotomy in action.

The state of Alaska, through the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), claims that all the salmon caught by fishermen in Alaska are wild. Sustainable seafood ecolabels such as MSC and guides such as Seachoice perpetuate this claim and further claim that current fishing methods are sustainable.

Is the salmon in our supermarkets as wild as we are led to believe, or is Alaska telling a little white lie to encourage the farmed vs. wild dichotomy?

Looking around the internet at sites that protest salmon farming you are often confronted with the recommendation to “eat wild.” Where am I supposed to get this wild salmon? For most people in B.C., local salmon is not that easy to obtain, except for a month or two in summer. During the rest of the year, most of the salmon sold in large B.C. supermarkets is from Alaska. Most salmon with a Seachoice or MSC label is from Alaska. MSC recently certified B.C. pink and sockeye fisheries, and will certify chum fisheries this year,  but the Seachoice guide still lists B.C. salmon as having “some concerns” while Alaska salmon are green lights all the way.

Chum Opening at Hidden Falls Hatchery – An example of Alaska’s so called “sustainable” fisheries.

Alaska hauls in huge amounts of fish every year. How are they able to sustain such large catches year after year? “Careful management” is the reason given on the MSC website and the Seachoice website. Depending on how you look at it, “Careful management” has three parts: 1. Hatchery programs, 2. catch limits, 3. a prohibition on finfish farming.

Salmon aquaculture protesters hold Alaska in high esteem for their aquaculture policies (prohibitions) and ASMI use this to their advantage when talking about this legislation.

Alaska salmon are wild; there are no salmon farms in Alaska. In order to protect Alaska’s wild fisheries from potential problems, salmon farming was prohibited by the Alaska legislature in 1990 (Alaska Statute 16.40.210).

All Alaska salmon live in their natural habitat in the cold, clean waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Here they grow to adulthood at their natural pace, eating only their natural foods like shrimp, herring, squid, zooplankton, and other marine life. They swim free on the high seas and then return to their natal streams on their own schedule. This is why Alaska’s salmon fisheries are seasonal, rather than year-round. Alaska salmon are wild; there are no salmon farms in Alaska. In order to protect Alaska’s wild fisheries from potential problems, salmon farming was prohibited by the Alaska legislature in 1990 (Alaska Statute 16.40.210).

Here is the statute:

Alaska Statutes – Section 16.40.210.: Finfish farming prohibited.

a) A person may not grow or cultivate finfish in captivity or under positive control for commercial purposes.
(b) This section does not restrict
(1) the fishery rehabilitation, enhancement, or development activities of the department;
(2) the ability of a nonprofit corporation that holds a salmon hatchery permit under AS 16.10.400 to sell salmon returning from the natural water of the state, as authorized under AS 16.10.450, or surplus salmon eggs, as authorized under AS 16.10.420 and 16.10.450;
(3) rearing and sale of ornamental finfish for aquariums or ornamental ponds provided that the fish are not reared in or released into water of the state.
(c) In this section “ornamental finfish” means fish commonly known as “tropical fish,” “aquarium fish,” or “goldfish,” that are imported, cultured, or sold in the state customarily for viewing in aquaria or for raising in artificial systems, and not customarily used for sport fishing or human consumption purposes.

For those not fluent in legalese here is an explanation from an FAQ on the government of Alaska’s site:

Can I raise fish?
No. Alaska statute 16.40.210 prohibits finfish farming. However, Alaska does allow nonprofit ocean ranching. Finfish farming is defined as growing or cultivating finfish in captivity. Ocean ranching, on the other hand, involves releasing young fish into public waters and being available for harvest by fishermen upon their return to Alaskan waters as adults.

So, as with most things in life, it comes down to money. As long as you are not making a profit from your finfish aquaculture facility you can grow fish.

Is there finfish aquaculture in Alaska? Yes. Eggs are harvested from wild fish and grown in closed containment hatcheries. When they hatch they are fed commercial fish feed, then, when they are too big for closed containment facilities, they are put into ocean or lake net pens where they are fed pellets, leave their excrement on the ocean floor, deal with sea lice and receive vaccinations to ensure that the spread of disease is very low. However, because the fish are released into the ocean to return when they are mature, these operations are labeled “hatcheries” or “salmon enhancement programs” instead of fish farms.

In Alaska the hatcheries are run by public non-profit (PNP) organizations paid for by fishermen and the government of Alaska. Because these fish are raised for a few years then released into the ocean to live out their last year or so, any fish caught by a fisherman (regardless of where it started its life) is considered a wild fish:

5 AAC 39.222(f)(43) Policy for the management of sustainable salmon fisheries. “wild salmon stock” means a stock of salmon that originates in a specific location under natural conditions; “wild salmon stock” may include an enhanced or rehabilitated stock if its productivity is augmented by supplemental means, such as lake fertilization or rehabilitative stocking; “wild salmon stock” does not include an introduced stock, except that some introduced salmon stocks may come to be considered “wild” if the stock is self-sustaining for a long period of time.

It cannot be said that Alaska has no finfish aquaculture, only that the fish are not harvested from a site for profit. They are instead released to be caught later by fishermen, who then sell them for a profit.

The Wally Noerenberg hatchery (above) on Esther Island in Prince William Sound is one of the largest such facilities in Alaska, releasing 175 million pink and chum salmon in 2006. The fish farm pens adjacent to the hatchery are used to hold the fish prior to release.

PNPs don’t deny the term aquaculture. In fact, many of them use the word aquaculture in their corporate titles: Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

What is aquaculture? According to Wikipedia:

Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants.[1][2] Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish.

The aquaculture of salmon is the farming and harvesting of salmon under controlled conditions. Farmed salmon can be contrasted with wild salmon captured using commercial fishing techniques. However, the concept of “wild” salmon as used by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute includes stock enhancement fish produced in hatcheries that have historically been considered ocean ranching. The percentage of the Alaska salmon harvest resulting from ocean ranching depends upon the species of salmon and location, [3] however it is all marketed as “wild Alaska salmon”.

Consumers are constantly being advised to “eat wild salmon” but how wild should the fish be? Is Alaska’s definition of any fish caught by a fisherman close enough or do we need to be more exacting in our definition and follow the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council’s definition?

“Salmon are considered “wild” if they have spent their entire life cycle in the wild and originate from parents that were also produced by natural spawning and continuously lived in the wild.”

Is it fair to market Alaskan salmon as truly wild? Many people say no:
The Truth about Alaskan Salmon  :The term ‘wild’ is false – up to 50% of ‘wild’ salmon in Alaska have been hatched in a plastic tray, fed pellets and then released from captivity to mix with real naturally wild salmon. Of course there’s plenty of salmon in Alaska – Alaska releases about two billion (yeah, billion-not to be confused with the word million) cultured salmon into Pacific waters every year. By cultured, we mean hatchery raised, pellet fed, vaccinated little salmon.  Heck, they probably have names!

Fair Questions: In its early years, the commercial fishing industry also made mistakes.  Back in the 1950s, over-fishing got so bad that the U.S. president declared Alaska a federal disaster area.  Since then, stocks have been re-built with hatchery fish. Today, about one third of Alaskan “wild” salmon is actually born in a bucket. It is sometimes said that Alaska banned salmon farming because of environmental concerns. While that may have been part of the reason, the fact is, its too cold for fish farming in most of Alaska.

blogfish: Alaska hates farmed salmon…until Alaska produces them and re-brands them “wild.” It’s a little-known fact that many of Alaska’s so-called “wild” salmon start their lives in a fish farm before being allowed to escape into the ocean. Do you think I’m kidding? Read this just released by the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation:

Pink salmon in the Prince William Sound (Alaska) are a modern, man-made marvel. Hatcheries operated by the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation and the Valdez Fisheries Development Association (VFDA) are responsible for virtually all of the pink salmon harvested in Prince William Sound.

A man-made marvel? These so-called “wild” Alaska salmon start their lives in fish farms before escaping into the ocean and being caught as “wild.”

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, Alaska

Salmon ranching is not unique to Alaska. Canada (B.C.), Japan and Russia all have “wild” salmon being reared in net pens but each country has different size programs.

Salmon farming in B.C. has been vilified by a handful of very vocal people who are good at getting their opinions into the media. Alaskan salmon ranching has some opponents, or at least people who would like the industry to be more transparent, but it does not face the same scrutiny and negative publicity directed at salmon farming.

As with most issues relating to the ocean, the source of salmon for our dinner plates is not a simple choice of wild or farmed. Wild Alaskan salmon is not all truly wild and farmed salmon is not the enemy of the ocean.

Alaskan salmon is plentiful and flavourful; the same is true for farmed salmon, which is available fresh and affordable all year round. Discounting one source of salmon because of marketing campaigns instead of doing careful research means that you could be missing out on a great product.

Many people have examined and protested the issues of salmon farming in B.C. and around the world but there seems to be some silence surrounding Alaska and it’s hatchery programs.  There is some controversy about how effective hatcheries are at helping wild populations of salmon and some of the potential negative impacts of hatcheries.

Part 2: Hatchery Fish are not Wild
Part 3: Profits First!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Series

 

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