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July 1, 2011

Press release on the ongoing lawsuit against what is effectively the Norwegian Government.


Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, 1st July 2011

Cermaq in the Dock in Canada
- CEO Geir Isaksen challenged to testify in Supreme Court of British Columbia

Tofino, B.C. – Cermaq’s CEO Geir Isaksen was today challenged to testify in the ongoing ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ lawsuit Vs. the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA) and Don Staniford [1].  According to legal papers filed yesterday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, ‘Examinations for Discovery’ will take place during September and the expected 20-day trial is scheduled to start in Vancouver on January 16 lasting until February 10, 2012. 

At a case planning conference on Wednesday (June 29) between lawyers representing GAAIA and Mainstream Canada (a division of EWOS Canada and a subsidiary of the Norwegian-owned multinational Cermaq), it was agreed that Mainstream Canada shall file any amended Notice of Civil Claim on or before July 18 and that GAAIA has until August 15 to inform the Plaintiff of the representative they wish to examine (read online here). 

“GAAIA will be calling on Cermaq’s CEO to bear witness to how Norwegian-owned salmon farming spreads disease,” said Don Staniford, Global Coordinator for GAAIA.  “Geir Isaksen stands in a unique position to shed light on the global spread of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) and on the vertical transmission via infected eggs from Norway to Chile – and potentially to British Columbia.  How on earth can Cermaq seriously argue against the case that ‘Salmon Farming Spreads Disease’ when their own scientific research vindicates the fact that ISA was spread to Chile from Norway?”

In June, Geir Isaksen announced his surprise resignation as CEO of Cermaq but will continue until the end of September.  In May, GAAIA wrote to the Cermaq Board of Directors, the King of Norway and Prime Minister of Norway demanding a “change of leadership at the helm of Cermaq” due to non-disclosure of disease data and a potential breach of reporting requirements to the Oslo Børs (stock exchange) [2].  A shareholder resolutionwas also filed at Cermaq’s AGM in Oslo in May calling for a CEO succession plan.  Last year, the Pure Salmon Campaign called for the resignation of Cermaq’s CEO Geir Isaksen and Don Staniford delivered a letter to Cermaq’s head office in Canada (watch the video: “Wild Salmon Advocates Call for Cermaq Chief’s Resignation”.      


“GAAIA’s ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ campaign goes way beyond the borders of Mainstream Canada,” said Don Staniford, Global Coordinator for GAAIA.  “Why a Norwegian Government-owned company such as Cermaq have chosen to fight this case in British Columbia and abuse the Canadian courts is a mystery.  The fact is that Norwegian-owned companies in Chile, Scotland, Norway and Canada are guilty of spreading infectious diseases and killing sea lions, seals, salmon, wild fish and, sadly, even their own workers.
Salmon farming kills around the world and should carry a global health warning.  Quit salmon farming now for the sake of the health of our global ocean, the health of wild fish and our children’s future.”

GAAIA launched the “Salmon Farming Kills” campaign in January at the Seafood Summit in Vancouver.  In February, the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) dismissed the campaign as “immature, inappropriate and irrelevant”.  In March, legal counsel to Cermaq wrote to GAAIA demanding a retraction, full apology and punitive damages claiming that “Salmon farming spreads disease” and other statements were defamatory.  In response, Mr Staniford wrote a letter to Cermaq’s head office in Norway copied to the Norwegian Government and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (the largest shareholder in Cermaq) asking “that Cermaq apologizes on behalf of the Norwegian people and the Norwegian Government for killing wild salmon and spreading infectious diseases around the world”. 

In March, Mainstream Canada filed a ‘Notice of Civil Action’ in the Supreme Court of British Columbia which claimed that statements such as “Salmon farming spreads salmon AIDS (ISA)” and “Salmon farming – harming wildlife and spreading diseases” were defamatory.   Cermaq claimed that such “defamatory actions” represented “a direct attack on Mainstream Canada’s and parent company Cermaq’s reputations as responsible company engaged in sustainable aquaculture”. 

GAAIA responded by challenging Cermaq to “Bring it On!” and stated in March: “Cermaq and the Norwegian Government: see you in court”.   The lawsuit attracted media attention in Norway via Dagbladet, Dagens Naringsliv and Reuters; in Canada via The Times Colonist, The Straight, Business in Vancouver,  and The Globe & Mail; and via the international trade press.

In April, Cermaq gave a presentation acknowledging publicly that ISA was spread to Chile from Norway via vertical transmission of infected eggs.  The Norwegian company involved was identified as Aquagen – a company part-owned by Cermaq and Marine Harvest.  In May, GAAIA filed a ‘Response to Civil Claim’ defending the ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ campaign and providing the ‘Defendants’ Response to Facts’ and ‘Additional Facts’.  GAAIA wrote to Cermaq CEO Geir Isaksen and Cermaq’s Board of Directors challenging Cermaq to report more publicly on the disease risks in Chile and Canada.  Cermaq wrote back stating that: “We notice that you would like to see in particular the spread of ISA to Chile and the risks of ISA and Salmon Leukemia in British Columbia included in our future reporting” [3].  On July 21, Cermaq will publish their Q2 2011 financial results.  

In August, the ‘Cohen Inquiry’ will tackle the issue of infectious diseases and salmon farming in British Columbia.  According to the BCSFA – a trade body which includes the Norwegian-owned companies Cermaq, Marine Harvest and Grieg - the public can expect a “media circus” and the explosive revelations will cause irreparable and irrevocable “reputational and economic damage”.  

In May, The Globe & Mail reported that “there are approximately 35 indications of the existence of ISA identified in these records to date”.   This week, The Tyee asked: “Is a Virus Ravaging BC's Sockeye? and the Pacific Free Press asked “Is Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) lurking on salmon farms in British Columbia?”.   The Globe & Mail also reported that: “information showing provincial inspectors found signs of a disease, infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, had been detected in British Columbia”. 


Don Staniford: (Email to arrange a phone interview)

Notes to Editors:

[1]  Don Staniford is an award-winning campaigner and author.  He has campaigned on salmon farming issues since 1998 and has worked for Friends of the Earth Scotland, the Salmon Farm Protest Group, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, the Pure Salmon Campaign and now works for the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA). 

In 2002, he won the Andrew Lees Memorial Award at the British Environment & Media Awards in London.   According to the judges, “he was a significant influence in persuading the Scottish Parliament to hold a formal inquiry into fish farming, has written a widely praised Friends of the Earth critique of fish farming in Scotland and uncovered proof that fish farm workers were being ordered to use illegal chemicals”. 

In 2005, he won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize at the BC Book Prizes for co-authoring the book “A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming” (read his chapter “Silent Spring of the Sea”).  

In 2009, following a four-year lawsuit Vs. Creative Salmon, Mr Staniford won on appeal in the Supreme Court of BC and then won again in the Supreme Court of Canada.  

[2] Read the letter to the Board of Directors of Cermaq dated 10th May online here

The letter includes:

“Cermaq are guilty of covering up scientific evidence – backed by Norway’s National Committee for the Investigation of Ethics in Research (Nasjonalt utvalg for gransking av redelighet i forskning) – proving a direct link between infected eggs from a Cermaq-owned company (AquaGen) in Norway and the spread of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) to Chile.  Furthermore, Cermaq is now covering up disease risks in British Columbia which could lead to significant financial losses for shareholders, investors and the company itself as well as untold ecological losses, impacts on wild Pacific salmon and communities which depend upon healthy wild salmon populations”.

[3] Email dated 18th May 2011 from Lise Bergan, Cermaq’s Corporate Affairs Director (Direct office #: +47 93 25 11 14; Mobile #: +47 23 68 50 30; Email:

Press release online here.


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