Disappearing the Wild Salmon: Documentary Exposes a Corporate-Government
Nexus Against the People, Local Industry, and Wildlife
by Kim Petersen
by Kim Petersen
Over 10 million sockeye were forecast by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to arrive at the Stó:lō (Fraser River) to spawn, but something happened. The spawning run was only in the hundreds of thousands.
Where did 10 million sockeye salmon disappear?
First Nation peoples have subsisted for centuries from salmon returning to the Stó:lō; the river’s salmon supported a large commercial fishery. Now there are fears that the Stó:lō/Fraser’s sockeye fishery is commercially extinct. What caused this?
Film-maker Damien Gillis identifies corporate salmon farms as the culprit. His film, Farmed Salmon Exposed: The Global Reach of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Industry, presents a damning case of salmon farming’s lethality on wild salmon.
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Farmed Salmon Exposed begins at the birthplace of salmon farming — a nation that prides itself as progressive and at the forefront of sustainable development: Norway. However, Norway’s image is tainted by its salmon farming corporations, such as Marine Harvest and Cermaq, which are killing wild salmon.
The repercussions from corporate salmon farming are myriad. The corporations farm unsustainably, disrupt local ecosystems, contaminate and degrade the marine environment, cause socio-economic dislocation, disrespect the rights of Original Peoples, and lobby susceptible governments against their people’s and future generations’s best interests.
The major profits from this activity — so destructive of the local environment and ecosystem — flows to shareholders elsewhere.
The solution is simple and has long been known: closed containment. It is only a partial solution since the farming of a predator like salmon is nutritionally unsustainable, requiring five kilos of protein in feed for each kilo of salmon produced. Moreover, the nutritional safety and quality of farmed salmon is dubious.
The documentary presents three primary concerns about salmon farms: sea lice, viruses, and escapes. These same problems plague salmon farming in Norway and plague other industries such as tourism. Norwegian politicians, though, have called for an increase in farmed salmon production.
However, with the intent to protect its wild salmon, Norway forbade salmon farming in some fjords. This appears ipso facto to be an admission that salmon farms endanger wild salmon.
Concerned people in other nations seek to protect their wild salmon as well. Farmed Salmon Exposed details the crises in Scotland, Ireland, “The Indian Territories”/BC, and Chile.
The Original Peoples of the Pacific Northwest have long been known as the salmon people. Bob Chamberlain of the Kwicksutaineuk-ah-kwaw-ah-mish Nation decried the salmon-farm caused despoliation of their traditional waters to Norwegians.
Marine Harvest officials declared that they would not leave BC, and the BC government sides with the foreign multinationals against its citizens and Original Peoples. Gail Shea, DFO minister, said on film that there was “no concrete analysis” of the sockeye collapse and that it was “too early to tell” if salmon farms were to blame. She said she was in Norway to “support our aquaculture industry in Canada because it is a very important part of our economy.” Instead of taking a precautionary approach until the safety of salmon farming can be established, the Canadian government gambles with the fate of wild salmon.
One can’t help but scratch one’s head. From a purely economic point-of-view, why would the federal government promote the interests of foreign multinationals (92 percent foreign ownership in BC) over the far more valuable BC commercial fishery, over the BC recreational fishery, over the province’s largest industry – tourism? Where will it lead?
Gillis turns his camera to Chile and the devastation wrought by the Norwegian-owned salmon farms: excessive antibiotic use, hypoxic conditions leading to algal blooms, pollution, “a psychological crisis for the people,” illness and death of workers, and disregard for the indigenous Mapuche.
Greed for quick profits has cost the Norwegian multinationals in their Chilean operations. Having abandoned the initial salmon-farming ravaged areas in Chile, the Norwegians eye moving south into the pristine waters of the Mapuche in Patagonia.
Chileans are concerned. Citizens of BC have an additional concern: their wild salmon. University of BC professor Daniel Pauly tells Farmed Salmon Exposed concerned citizens need to mobilize in an “organized fashion” against poor salmon-farming practices. Dissent is occurring.
Part of the DFO’s self-professed mission is working toward “Healthy and Productive Aquatic Ecosystems; and Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture.” The DFO, which presided over the collapse of the massive cod fishery on Canada’s east coast, comes in for scathing criticism in the film, including from its former biologists, like Otto Langer.
Dedicated wild salmon biologist-activist Alexandra Morton is a voice of reason in the film. Recently, Morton has sought to force the federal government and DFO to protect wild fish.
Morton laid charges against Marine Harvest for illegal possession of juvenile wild salmon and called upon the DFO to uphold the Fisheries Act and lay a charge themselves. Morton’s activism has resulted in a judge in Port Hardy, BC, approving the charge and summoning Marine Harvest to appear in court.
Will Gillis document a victory for the common people (and wildlife) over corporate profiteers? Stayed tuned for the sequel.
Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: