Whose Ocean? Whose Wild Salmon?

Corporate-Government Chooses Profit over Wild Salmon; What Do the People Choose?

Do people hold the power? If so, then why do capitalists, corporations, and their shareholders grab ever more of the wealth that used to belong to the people? Why do the forests, resources, ocean, and the wildlife become commodified or controlled by corporations?

The British Columbia capital, Victoria,1 has only one local corporate newspaper. In the Sunday edition of the ever diminishing Times Colonist newspaper, there appeared an advertisement very much unlike the standard ad that attempts to persuade a person based on its slickness, celebrity worship, or appeal to prurient senses. The ad was a full-page letter on the back of the A section entitled in bold: “BC speak now or forever lose your fish!” It is a rationally based appeal and is replete with footnotes to peer-review science journals and annual reports.

Addressed to the people of BC, it begins, “I am no longer certain that you want wild salmon, because every level of government that you have elected seems against them.” The biologist Alexandra Morton, who has been waging a battle against the deleterious effects of salmon farming on the wild salmon population, questions why voters opt for a government unconcerned with the plight of the wild salmon. British Columbians, by dint of their voting preferences, might be viewed as oblivious to the destruction of their five native salmon stocks.

For three consecutive elections, British Columbians have voted the right-wing Liberal Party, a friend of salmon-farm corporations,2 into political power in the westernmost Canadian province. These election victories have coincided with an upsurge in corporate salmon farming and catastrophic crashes of the wild salmon population.

Morton sees no mystery in the disappearance of the wild Pacific salmon: “The science is conclusive: where salmon farms exist, wild salmon and trout are in exceptionally sharp decline.”

She holds the government responsible because it has granted gatekeeper status to the fish farms in estuaries, exposing wild salmon runs that pass by to pathogens from the farms. In particular, sea lice have been implicated in the demise of juvenile wild salmon.3

Morton emphasizes that the problem is not just sea lice, and it is not just salmon that are threatened. She points out, for instance, that the “sheer numbers of IHN virus shed from farms over 100s of km from Bella Coola to Campbell River was an unprecedented threat to herring and salmon.”

Who Profits?

So why do government allow corporations to continue farming fish along wild salmon migration routes that imperil the wild fish?4

Morton follows the money. She further asks what money there is and for who?

Citing the BC Ministry of Environment, Morton writes that fish farms brought in $365 million in landed catch value in 2007. Wild salmon brought in $1.5 billion in tourism and $288 million in sports fishing. Sport fishing is mainly owned by British Columbians while salmon farms are mainly Norwegian-owned corporations. Citing Wilderness Tourism Association figures, full-time jobs provided by fish farms were 4,000 versus the 52,000 full-time jobs that wild salmon made possible.

The figures clearly point to the far greater economic importance of wild salmon over farmed salmon.

The evidence points to politicians colluding with the flow of money into the pockets of a few foreign corporatists against the economic well-being of many Indigenous and local people.

As Morton knows well, there are other corporatists who would like wild salmon to go away. Salmon do not just stand in the way of salmon-farming corporations:

Because wild salmon require functional habitat from the tops of mountains, down through richly forested watersheds, along the coastal shelf and out to sea, politicians can’t bear the consequence of taking a stand to protect them. They would say “no” to the loggers who want to take the most valuable trees now standing in the last thriving watersheds, “no” to those who scheme to dam, divert, and sell BC’s fresh water, “no” to miners wanting to dump tailings into the rivers, and most importantly, “no” to the oilmen greedily eyeing our coast. To these politicians, farm salmon means a salmon that means no habitat. It is a good deal for them.5

Corporate Contradiction

Sometimes making money can get in the way of having one’s fun.

The ex-Norwegian, now Cypriot, tycoon John Fredriksen, an avid fisherman, reached a conclusion that contradicts his 30% ownership in Marine Harvest, the world’s largest salmon-farming corporation: “I am worried for the wild salmon’s future. Fish farming should not be allowed in fjords with salmon rivers.”6 The world traveller Fredriksen seemed primarily concerned for his homeland’s Alta River: “Neither Iceland or Canada can measure up to Alta. Management of the river, with its exclusive and peaceful fishing spots, is special here.”7 Fredricksen also pointed to a global threat to wild salmon: “Sea lice, infectious diseases and genetic and ecological interactions of escaped farmed salmon with wild salmon are a serious threat to the future of both wild Atlantic and Pacific salmon.”8

Marine Harvest Canada’s communications director Ian Roberts — who once complained, “I believe people are starting to get a little weary of this type of Doomsday prophecy”9 — must have felt befuddled by Fredricksen’s Doomsday prophecy.

The Corporate Media, and Salmon Farming

On Friday, 31 July, actor William Shatner headlined the front page of the BC capital’s corporate newspaper with his appeal to remove the fish farms.10

Redolent with academic hubris, the TC quoted Brent Hargreaves, “a research scientist from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who has studied sea lice for six years,” as questioning Shatner’s scientific knowledge to pronounce on wild salmon. Hargreaves also accuses Morton of “a big stretch” in attributing the demise of wild salmon to sea lice from fish farms. He claims there is no evidence that sea lice cause sockeye death.

I was surprised by this media slant. Why the focus on sockeye salmon when it was the Broughton Archipelago pink salmon collapse in 2002 that rang alarm bells, and sea lice were sited as the culprit.11 It was pink and chum salmon that Hargreaves studied with his colleague Morton.

The writer of the article, Judith Lavoie, said that the editing had distorted the story, and that Hargreaves “was far less adamant than the story indicated – saying there is no evidence [for sea lice causing sockeye salmon deaths], but qualifying it with some of the studies on chums and pinks.”12

Morton replied, “Brent simply means there has been no science to prove that sockeye juveniles can be killed by sea lice. Adult salmon can be killed by sea lice, so it is only a matter of how many. Brent knows sea lice are a serious issue for wild salmon, but he can’t rock the boat. DFO policy is to support the expansion of fish farms and anyone who has a problem with that is sidelined.”13 ,14

Morton agreed she was extrapolating in saying that sockeye smolts — which grow for a year in freshwater and enter seawater fully scaled, as opposed to pinks and chums which go to sea right after hatching and have no scales — can be killed by sea lice. However, Morton says “that does not mean sockeye infested with lice will be fine and will survive and complete their life cycle. It remains, whenever I see a generation infected with lice as they go to sea… They don’t come back in healthy numbers.”13

Morton added,

Brent’s colleague Simon Jones says a .7g pink salmon can survive with 7.5 sea lice on it. My research and the European research found young salmon can survive with about 1 louse per gram of body weight. Who knows why the difference in findings, but one thing does jump out and that is in Jones’ work all the infected fish were sedated with a chemical early on in the experiment. Perhaps this killed all the lice or made them sluggish. I don’t know, but he does not even cite my published study nor address the difference. This is not good science, particularly because his findings are such an outlier.

In the same 2 August issue as Morton’s ad, the TC makes the case that “there is little hard information to go on” about the infestation of sea lice on wild salmon.15 Vancouver Island University professor Duane Barker, “an expert in fish diseases and parasites,” is quoted as saying: “recent research data indicates higher levels of sea lice on wild salmon caught in the open ocean away from farms.”

Morton noted that there are “tens of papers myself and others from here to Norway have published on extensive research on how this occurs and the impacts”:

Duane Barker is a making a political statement of little biological significance and it is very disappointing such a person was given 400,000 to study sea lice by the government. Sea lice biology occurs in the open ocean.  There has always been more lice there than in the inshore waters.  When wild salmon return to spawn, all their lice die of fresh water and so the inshore waters wash clean the parasite cycle is broken between generations.

Today, however the wild salmon infect the farm fish as they pass on their inbound migration. The farms allow the lice to reproduce all winter and infect the young salmon. It is irrelevant if there are more or less lice on them than in the open ocean…they are not at all prepared for any lice and what they are getting at the fish farms is killing them. Baker is very misguided saying there is “little hard information.” …

It is not in the public’s interest for people to be confusing [the] issue, but it is in the fish farmer’s interest. This is a variation on the theme talk and log.

No one is raising alarms about the number of lice on adult fish out in the open ocean.  Dr. Baker is talking about adult fish, but the concern is regarding the juveniles just as they leave the rivers and become infected.  Adult salmon frequently have 10 lice or more, but the very young salmon die of one or two.16

The salmon-farm mouthpieces defy believability.17 Does the corporate media deserve any trust18 or credibility?19 The TC is a part of the Canwest Global corporation, by no means a moral media beacon.20 Just like the corporate fish farms, the corporate media’s primary motive is profit.

Whither Wild Slamon?

“Fundamentally,” fish farms are unconstitutional argues Morton “because they attempt to privatize ocean spaces and own schools of fish in the ocean.”

Morton offers many solutions. The sine qua non solution is simple, and it has been known for a long time: closed containment systems for fish farms. Writes Morton, “Feedlots belong in quarantine, because they break the natural laws that prevent disease epidemics.”

Morton is giving people a chance to make their collective voices heard. She believes people power can protect the wild salmon and is behind an online petition where people can register their vote for wild salmon. The logical choice is clear: a vote for the preservation of wild salmon is a vote for ourselves.

  1. Victoria is the imperialist designation, the indigenous Songhees called it Camosack. British Columbia is also an imperialist designation, which some people trace back to Christopher Columbus. Kathy Pelta, Discovering Christopher Columbus: How History Is Invented (Lerner Publishing Group, 1991): 50. Delno C. West and August Kling, “Columbus and Columbia: A Brief Survey of the Early Creation of the Columbus Symbol in American HistoryStudies in Popular Culture, 1989, 12(2): 45-60. []
  2. The BC government has also offered BC wilderness — including salmon-bearing streams — for the profit of private interests. See Melissa Davis, “Deciphering the truth about the B.C. Energy Plan,” Georgia Strait, 20 April 2009. []
  3. Martin Krkošek, Mark A. Lewis, and John P. Volpe, “Transmission dynamics of parasitic sea lice from farm to wild salmon,” Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, 7 April 2005, 272 (1564): 689-696. []
  4. See Kim Petersen, “Capitalism and an Impending Wild Salmon Apocalypse,” Dissident Voice, 22 December 2007. []
  5. Alexandra Morton, “Dying of Salmon Farming” in Stephen Hume, Alexandra Morton, Betty C. Keller, Rosella M. Leslie, Otto Langer, and Don Staniford, A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming, (Harbour Publishing, 2004): 235. This book is scathing indictment of the salmon-farming industry. See review. []
  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. Steng fjorden for oppdrett,” Altaposten, 19 June 2007. Verken Island eller Canada kan måle seg med Alta. Forvaltningen av elva, med eksklusivitet og ro ved fiskeplassene, er spesiell her. []
  8. Severin Carrell, “Fish billionaire in plea to save wild salmon,” Guardian, 29 September 2007. []
  9. Bjørn Erik Dahl and Agnar Berg, “Marine Harvest Canada boss attacks Science article writers [but not Frericksen],” Intrafish, 18 December 2007. []
  10. Judith Lavoie, “Shatner’s latest mission: remove fish farms,” Times Colonist, 31 July 2009. []
  11. See Kim Petersen, “The Great Auks, Wild Salmon, and Money,” Dissident Voice, 15 December 2004. []
  12. Personal communication, 4 August 2009. []
  13. Personal communication, 3 August 2009. [] []
  14. On the complicity of the DFO in the mismanagement and non-conservation of wild salmon, see Hume et al., A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming and Kim Petersen, “The Great Auks, Wild Salmon, and Money,” Dissident Voice, 15 December 2004. []
  15. Professor wins grant to study sea lice,” Times Colonist, 2 August 2009: A6. []
  16. Personal communication, 2 August 2009. []
  17. Kim Petersen, “Farmageddon and the Spin-doctors,” Dissident Voice, 29 May 2003. []
  18. Kim Petersen, “Disinformation: A Crime Against Humanity and a Crime Against Peace,” Press Action, 17 February 2005. []
  19. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002). []
  20. David Beers, “Marc Edge on ‘Asper Nation,’” The Tyee, 13 November 2007. The associate professor of journalism at Sam Houston University makes the case that CanWest Global is “Canada’s Most Dangerous Media Company” because of its ownership editorials that attempt to set the political agenda and influence democracy. On Canwest’s flagship newspaper, see Kim Petersen, “The Corporate Media and Critical Thinking in Education,” Dissident Voice, 20 August 2009. []
Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Jeff said on August 8th, 2009 at 4:09pm #

    Maybe I am wrong, but if an issue does not effect ‘America’ in the NOW, then it must be non relevant. The response to this article shows high merit to the ignorance of most on this planet!

  2. Don Hawkins said on August 8th, 2009 at 4:15pm #

    Have you been watching the weather not the climate the weather in the States this summer? So far 1.4 million acres of forest burned in Alaska. Texas South Texas drought and now praying for rain. California a bit dry and more dry on the way. Record high temperatures in the West and yesterday a frost warming. Now the middle of the Country hot. From the ice and snow people out of Colorado.

    Arctic sea ice extent for the month of July was the third lowest for that month in the satellite record, after 2007 and 2006. The average rate of melt in July 2009 was nearly identical to that of July 2007. A strong high-pressure system, similar to the atmospheric pattern that dominated the summer of 2007, brought warm winds and clear skies to the western Arctic, promoting ice melt.

    Weather patterns bring clear skies, warmth
    The atmospheric circulation pattern for summer 2009 has been similar to the pattern in summer 2007. As in 2007, an unusually strong high-pressure cell (an anticyclone) settled over the Beaufort Sea, bringing warm air into the Chukchi Sea. This year, the Beaufort Sea anticyclone, averaged for June and July 2009, was even stronger than the anticyclone in 2007. However, unlike 2007, this year the Beaufort Sea high-pressure cell is not paired with unusually low pressure over eastern Siberia, the “dipole” pattern that in 2007 promoted strong surface winds and extreme melt.
    The strong Beaufort Sea high-pressure cell that occurred both this summer and in 2007 is part of a larger scale atmospheric pattern known as the Pacific North American (PNA) “teleconnection.” The airflow in the western hemisphere is usually characterized by a low pressure trough over the North Pacific, a ridge over western North America, and a trough over eastern North America. The PNA describes the strength of this pattern. When the PNA is positive, the normal pattern is amplified and the airflow becomes more “wavy” than usual. While the expressions of the PNA vary by season, the strong western North American ridge during the positive PNA favors a strong Beaufort Sea high pressure system. The stronger than usual trough over eastern North America also helps to explain the cool and rainy weather that has gripped this area much of the summer. NSIDC scientists provide Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis, with partial support from NASA.

    Still time to slow this down not all the changes but the real fun stuff. A Herculean effort it will take.

  3. Jeff said on August 8th, 2009 at 4:30pm #

    Don Hawkins, you disappoint. Your post gives credence of the point I was trying to make. Your “global” perception concerning ‘global climate change’ revolves around “The United States of America”. Where are your statistics concerning the rest of this globe and just how “those weather patterns” apply.

    ‘Those whom are blind see’: In this case the answer is NO.

  4. Don Hawkins said on August 8th, 2009 at 5:00pm #

    Your right Jeff.

    SHENYANG, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) — More than 900,000 people in northern China’s Shanxi and Liaoning provinces are suffering from a drinking water shortage due to an ongoing drought, local officials said Wednesday.

    And flooding in China normal, no.

    NEW DELHI — India’s prime minister promised Saturday that no citizen would go hungry as a result of scanty monsoon rains that have threatened the output of rice and other vital crops.

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also promised strong action against “hoarders and black marketeers” after the weather office reported that monsoon rains for the past week were 64 percent below average.

    The country of nearly 1.2 billion people was facing a “difficult situation” as a result of the weak monsoon, Singh told a meeting of state chief secretaries called to discuss the impact of the weak monsoon.

    But “we are in a position to ensure adequate availability of foodgrains in drought-affected areas,” he said, thanks to bumper crops in the past two years.

    “In no case should we allow citizens to go hungry,” Singh said.

    Africa forget about it. Iraq turning into a dust bowl Western Antarctica melting way to fast. I could keep witting for an hour or so the changes. A Herculean effort means sharing information knowledge with China India kind of working together and other countries are ahead of us on the knowledge front. Palin for President in 2012 then just think we at that point will close that knowledge gap but just the next three years should tell the story.

  5. Jeff said on August 8th, 2009 at 5:14pm #

    Don Hawkins, keep up your vigilance.

    Thank you for your unique sight.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain said on August 8th, 2009 at 6:23pm #

    Don, just as the need for international co-operation to face the ecological crisis, the resource depletion crises and the debt crisis reaches the point of absolute necessity, the rulers of the American Reich and its satellite states have decided, instead, that it is time for the long anticipated onslaught on China. In this country the media morass has clearly received its marching orders. Each day brings a new insult, a new slap in the face for a country that has not only done nothing to us, but also keeps our economy afloat with its commodity purchases.
    Just this week we have been treated to the sight of the Uighur ‘resistance’ leader, Reeba Kadeer, another of those brave ‘freedom fighters’ like the Dalai, the Contras, al Qaeda,et al, who the American Reich has financed, whose insurgents have been trained and armed to attack Washington’s enemies, visiting the country. Coming so soon after the killings of over one hundred Han Chinese by Uighur terrorists in Xinjiang, this is a calculated insult, with heavy xenophobic and racist overtones. The absolutely justified Chinese protests,(and who can imagine a movie glorifying the leader of a ‘resistance movement’ that has just caused 150 plus deaths in Detroit or Birmingham or Albury being shown at a ‘movie festival’)have been met with the usual chauvinistic expectorations denouncing Chinese ‘interference’ in our affairs. That casual projection and inversion of reality so typical of the psychopathic Right is on display, as ever.
    The Australian-Chinese relationship grew strongly during the years of the extreme Rightwing Howard regime, despite Howard’s well-known aversion to all things non-Anglo-Saxon or non-Judeo-Christian, because there were hundreds of billions in money flowing from China, and because the Opposition Labor Party saw no political advantage in stoking the flames of racism and xenophobia. The Rightwing, or rather the more Rightwing parties, in Opposition now, see no such compunction. They have been kicking the anti-Chinese racist can since Rudd became PM. They began by insinuating that Rudd, as he spoke fluent ‘Mandarin’ Chinese, was a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ who would sell us out to the ‘Yellow Peril’.
    Numerous provocations have followed, and as ever, the ‘Free Press’ have been speaking with one voice. The Murdoch pathocracy has been to the fore with their trademark hysterical vehemence. Naturally no voices arguing against the ideological monoculture are allowed. The Chinese have become honourary Palestinians overnight. In particular the note of racist and civilizational supremacy and contempt for Chinese institutions has been marked, as if it were still 1840 and the ‘sick man of the Orient’ had better still jump to when a White Man barks his demands. Obviously the rise of the Chinese economy, the advance of China scientifically, technically and culturally has been felt as an outright affront by those still harbouring heartfelt delusions of Western superiority.
    Rudd has over-reacted in panic, and begun to ape his political foes in lecturing the Chinese. The Chinese have, wisely, refused to retaliate, but have made their objections known. Naturally, while we welcome ‘resistance’ leaders whose open ambition, financed by the American Reich, is the dismemberment of China along the lines of the successful operations in the USSR and Yugoslavia, with who knows how many deaths and casualties, that’s OK, but China objecting is an enormous interference in our lives. Then again cynical hypocrisy, along with impudent lying, is one of the pillars of our political life, but the sheer gall with which it is practised never ceases to impress.
    So, dear Don, I think we will get nowhere expecting international co-operation. The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ mob would rather see the world destroyed than take orders from a ‘Chink’ let alone a ‘ChiComm’. Fortunately the Chinese are just getting on with the job, building wind, solar, renewable bio-mass and more energy sources, and spending big on research. You see, in my opinion at least, a meritocracy populated by technocrats, engineers and scientists, where advancement is by virtue, in the main, of talent, beats a pathocracy whose functionaries are the servants of the money power, a class of hereditary parasites whose greed and hatred for others are literally limitless.

  7. sid wright said on August 11th, 2009 at 7:13am #

    the number of fish caught from the atlantic fishing grounds with abnormalities is also worrying as this tends to indicate that chemical pollution of the oceans is now causing genetic defects

  8. Don Hawkins said on August 11th, 2009 at 7:20am #


  9. yang said on August 12th, 2009 at 11:40pm #

    your fascination with salmon
    your mommy’s salmon smells like jm’s house