January 22, 2011
Global State of Salmon Feedlots
While the politics of salmon feedlots are murky, it is clear they have altered the biology of coastlines worldwide. Large schools of salmon are no longer migrating. Predators are no longer culling the diseased. Young wild salmon are no longer shielded from the diseases of their parents and bacteria. Viruses and parasites are free to become more virulent, because farm salmon hosts never survive to maturity - they are slaughtered (Pulkkinen et al. 2010).
Ecosystems are powerful machines running on sun and water. Diseases are the long arm of nature’s law – shutting down organisms that disrupt the natural order life on earth depends on. Wild Pacific salmon live by a strict set of rules including:
· mandatory migration,
· death of each generation before the next one is born
· predators that remove the contagious as soon as they get sick.
Feedlots try to replace these powerful mechanisms with drugs. But drugs are a short-term weapon, relying on surprise attack as pathogens mutate to construct shields against each new chemical. The resulting battles present escalating risk to us from more toxic drugs and drug resistant disease. Chicken, beef and pork farmers try to prevent disease from entering their fragile monoculture environments with quarantine. Because they choose not to shovel their manure, salmon feedlots have put themselves in the ocean, in net pens, among wild fish with no quarantine possible. Thus they have sown their own demise.
A quick tour around the world makes it clear salmon feedlots are operating on borrowed time ecologically, legally and economically.
Raising salmon in net pens began in Norway, thus Norway is a forerunner. Today, nine out of ten salmon rivers in the heavily farmed Hardanger Fjord have collapsed and sea lice and escaped fish from salmon feedlots are blamed. The lice became resistant to one drug after the next and they are now pumping farm salmon into well boats and bathing them in Hydrogen Peroxide trying to kill the lice. However, a very large number of farm salmon in Norway are weakened with Pancreatic Disease and this extreme delousing procedure is more than the fish can handle.
Georg Fredrik Rieber-Mohn, the former Attorney General of Norway was tasked to protect Norway from salmon feedlots:
“In 1999, I was proud to present the so-called “wild salmon plan” which proposed national protection for the 50 best salmon rivers and the 9 most important fjord-systems across Norway – the national laksfjords – where salmon farms would be prohibited. However, intense lobbying from the salmon farming industry watered down the proposals so that by the time they passed the parliament in 2007 the protected fjords had become smaller and gave less protection against the salmon farming industry. The result has been a heavy defeat for wild salmon and a huge win for sea lice. Put simply, we had an open goal to save wild salmon but we missed the target. Now we are dealing with the consequences of poor defending.” (Open letter to Canada, Feb 16, 2010)
The Norwegian Institute of Marine Science is considered the founder of the salmon feedlot industry. But in a report released on January 12, 2011, “Risk assessment – environmental impacts of Norwegian fish farming,” they report there is high probability that salmon farming conflicts with Norway’s sustainability strategy because sea lice and escaped salmon are such significant risk factors to wild salmon. They suggest the industry is no longer sustainable <http://www.imr.no/nyhetsarkiv/2011/januar/lus_og_romming_odelegger/en>
Canada tried to limit the delousing drug arsenal to Slice, considered the least damaging chemical to wild fish because it is administered in the food instead of as a bath. Predictably the lice are becoming resistant and so AlphaMax and Salmosan have now been approved. The feedlots are tarped, the drugs are poured in and when they are done the tarps are lifted and the drug flows out. Lobsters are a very valuable fishery that people in New Brunswick depend on and Environment Canada found that AlphaMax kills lobsters (http://fundytides.blogspot.com/2010/12/aquaculture-test-of-alphamax-shows.html). The salmon farmers asked for another round of testing and the drug remains in use.
When hundreds of valuable lobsters turned up dead near salmon feedlots and tested positive for an illegal delousing drug, cypermethrin, Environment Canada sent 29 officers with a search warrant into the offices of a salmon feedlot company last November. The investigation is ongoing (http://wn.com/Enviroment_Canada_raids_Cooke_Aquaculture_offices). Meanwhile, the lice are so hard to control some salmon farmers are reportedly now using Hydrogen Peroxide in well boats as well.
A large percentage of wild salmon in Eastern Canada are now infected with a virus called Infectious Salmon Anemia which was unheard of before it began erupting in thousands of farm salmon.
Sea lice are also growing on farm salmon in Chile and heavy infestations have been reported on wild fish outside the pens. Eight different drugs have reportedly been used in their ongoing battle to control the lice.
Norwegian companies are operating in Chile and a Norwegian strain of the Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) has spread through the industry causing its collapse in 2008/9. Every country with Norwegian salmon feedlots now has ISA, but this was the first time no one could argue wild fish had infected the farm salmon, as the current Norwegian strain could not have reached Chile in wild fish. As the enormous Chilean farm salmon supply dwindled, the global price of farm salmon increased actually benefiting some of the Norwegian companies operating in Chile. Although the industry is now moving into pristine Chilean waters the virus is following them, suggesting it could now be in a wild species of fish and Chile is permanently contaminated. Chilean production remains a fraction of what it was a few years ago.
One hundred eighty tonnes of ISA infected Chilean salmon were processed in November 2010. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears to consider ISA infected salmon safe for human consumption, but a group of Chilean Senators have become concerned and filed a petition to prohibit sale of ISA infected salmon for human consumption. The virus is reportedly in the same family as the flu.
In Scotland, sea lice and ISA virus are also a big problem. Rivers of sea trout and wild salmon are collapsing in a pattern that points to salmon feedlots.
When the Scottish government informed the salmon feedlot industry last March that it was going to publish the details of their salmon feedlot inspection reports the Scottish Salmon Producers threatened legal action. The government not only halted their release they have not inspected salmon farms since April 2010. The Atlantic Salmon Trust headed by the Prince of Wales launched an attack on the Scottish Government over its "laissez-faire policies" towards fish farming…” (The Scotsman, Jan 2, 2011).
Three Norwegian companies now own 92% of the salmon feedlots in BC. Fish farmers, themselves are asking how long before ISA virus gets to BC (Intrafish Jan 12, 2009), scientists warn it can be transported in eggs, but the Minister of Fisheries doesn’t believe them and continues to allow eggs from the Atlantic into BC.
Salmon feedlots may run counter to the Constitution of Canada because they attempt to privatize ocean spaces. Management of the industry was unlawfully transferred to the provincial government in 1989. BC Supreme Court reversed this in 2009 forcing the federal government to resume responsibility. When government informed the salmon farmers that their disease records would be made public in March 2010, the industry stopped making the fish in their sites available for disease testing. This extreme measure to maintain secrecy raises the question – what are they hiding here and in Scotland.
The industry is pushing hard for expansion despite over 5000 people marching on the Parliament Buildings in May 2010 to get salmon feedlots out of BC waters. Research has shown sea lice from these feedlots are damaging wild salmon populations and leaked documents suggest government is suppressed news of a mysterious virus infecting wild sockeye salmon that have been exposed to salmon feedlots. Sockeye are a $1 billion public fishery and wild salmon support a $1.6 wilderness tourism industry with 52,000 fulltime equivalent jobs.
There is now a judicial inquiry underway into the catastrophic 18-year collapse of sockeye salmon and Justice Cohen has demanded release of the industry’s disease records. The first ever First Nation Class Action Suit has been certified by the courts to sue government for damage to a First Nation territory by salmon feedlots. Government has appealed this decision which First Nations view as a delay tactic.
The Global Economics
The money in salmon feedlots is in corporate shares, not the fish themselves. This means each company must find a way to continuously expand. For the larger players acquiring a new site here and there is not fast enough growth to satisfy shareholders (Bloomberg.com) and so they consolidate into fewer and larger companies. However, Marine Harvest, the world’s biggest salmon farming corporation and the dominant company in BC, is running out of room for expansion. They have reportedly filed a complaint to the European Free Trade Association over Norwegian rules preventing ownership of more than 25% of all licenses in Norway. http://www.seafoodsource.com/newsarticledetail.aspx?id=4294999450
With Chile now contaminated with a Norwegian virus, eastern Canada under investigation, the Prince of Wales angry at the Scottish government’s handling of the industry, Norway saturated and in a biological catch-22; British Columbia has become extremely vulnerable, unprotected by its own governments and the target of this rapacious industry. Many of these huge industrial facilities are operating on expired tenures in BC and government is just letting them carry on business as usual. Federal and provincial governments are now threatening their own elections by supporting of this highly mechanized low-paying job industry.
Salmon are carnivores. Fish are caught in the South Pacific, transported the length of the globe, thrown back in the water to make less fish. A more brilliant approach are the Canadians fish farmers who want to grow fish in tanks, using the fish waste to grow vegetables and the plants to filter the fish water (Northern Aquaculture Nov/Dec 2010, page 13).
In November 2010, John Fredriksen, richest man in Norway and largest shareholder in Marine Harvest, sold 250 million shares in the company (www.bloomberg .com) causing share prices to tumble. Mr. Fredricksen promised Marine Harvest a 180-day grace period in which he would not sell anymore shares.
Rather than soaking up lice and disease the industry needs to close the door and keep their fragile feedlot creatures in quarantine.
Industrial marine salmon feedlots have had their day. They got away with breaking the natural laws, but Mother Nature has caught up with them. Without BC this industry has nowhere to expand, if it expands in BC we have no reason to expect a different fate than all these others places. There are many
There is a $million ad campaign now on primetime TV in BC and on GOOGLE ads telling people not to believe everything they read about salmon farms. I agree, which is why we need to look around the world
Posted by Pool 32 Admin at 22.1.11