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August 16, 2011

Farmed Salmon Confidential Part 2

Part 2 of a 2-part series - read part 1 here.

When does a foreign-owned corporation’s right to protect its share price trump the environment and Canadian public’s rights? Apparently, when it’s the Norwegian salmon farming industry.
Numerous instances from the past several years reveal a pattern of salmon farmers resisting transparency when it comes to disease and parasite monitoring - and the excuse often given is severe financial damage to the companies involved. But if there’s nothing untoward about their operations, as they maintain, then how could the release of said data prove so damaging to their bottom line?
Norwegian Shareholders Before BC’s Wild Salmon
Documents obtained by The Common Sense Canadian reveal that the Norwegian-owned companies Marine Harvest and Cermaq (who together control three quarters of B.C.’s salmon farms) have been lobbying behind the scenes since at least 2008 for the Government not to release disease information. The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) also successfully argued against the disclosure of disease data during the Cohen Inquiry, with Justice Cohen ruling in June that information must be kept confidential until the evidentiary hearings on aquaculture.

Clearly, these companies are very worried about this information getting out to the public.
Marine Harvest admitted in a submission to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner in 2008 that the release of disease information “would cause significant commercial harm,” “undue financial loss” and that “Marine Harvest Canada’s reputation could be tarnished and sales volume reduced”. It further stated: “Marine Harvest is a publicly traded company on the Oslo Stock Exchange and as such, corporate reputation is very important in maintaining share price and shareholder loyalty.” (On a side note, has this industry even informed their shareholders of the risk of Infectious Salmon Anemia in BC?)

Marine Harvest’s largest shareholder, incidentally, is Norway’s richest man, John Fredriksen, worth over $10 billion. (In 2007, while fishing on Norway’s River Alta, Fredriksen admitted to the Altaposten Newspaper, “I’m concerned about the future of wild salmon. Move salmon farms out of the path of wild salmon.”)
Meanwhile, Cermaq - who operate in Canada as Mainstream and whose largest shareholder is the Norwegian Government - claimed in another submission in 2008 to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner that “disclosure would result in "undue financial loss" to Mainstream,” “damage Mainstream’s business” and referred to “the harm which such information in the wrong hands can do.”

Similar statements were made by the BCSFA in submissions to the Cohen Inquiry in May this year. The industry lobby conceded that should disease data be disclosed publicly there would be a “likelihood of misuse and irrevocable damage to the economic interests and reputations of participants and individuals.”  In another submission to the Cohen Inquiry in May, the BCSFA admitted, “Irreparable damage will occur to the reputations and economic interests of the BCSFA’s member companies and their shareholders.”

While the BCSFA – whose members include the Norwegian companies Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg – has been privately lobbying for the non-disclosure of disease data, they have issued public statements claiming “good health” and “healthy fish” on BC salmon feedlots.  This is despite the fact that in April 2010, BC’s salmon farmers began refusing access to government inspectors to carry out disease monitoring.

Read the rest of the first part of this VERY interesting and again extremly scary article by clicking HERE it will take you directly to the article on the Common Sense Canadian website.

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