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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.”)
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.
Meanwhile, even the data the industry group wants the public to see reveals a host of deadly diseases, viruses, pathogens and bacteria since 2003 (published online via the "BCSFA Fish Health Database").
The latest disease data for Q1 2010 (2011 information is still not publicly available) reports the existence of: Lepeophtheirus Infection, Myxobacterial Infection, Viral Haemorrhagic Septicemia Virus Infection, Aeromonas salmonicida Infection and Piscirickettsia salmonis Infection on BC farms. A financial report published recently by Marine Harvest also reveals that the parasite Kudoa cost the company in Canada $4 million and resulted in reduced prices (kudoa causes myoliquefaction or soft-flesh syndrome which is off-putting to buyers).
Dr. Kristi Miller and Salmon Leukemia
Dr. Miller was barred from
speaking to the media about her findings by the Privy Council, which
supports the Prime Minister’s Office. This isn’t surprising when you
view a powerpoint of hers released already as an exhibit by the Cohen
Inquiry on March 17, which suggests Salmon Leukemia is causing brain
tumors in our sockeye and relates the virus to salmon farms.
To what extent this disease is related to salmon farms on BC’s coast and/or collapsing Fraser River sockeye stocks remains to be seen, but Dr. Miller will finally have her chance to answer questions when she’s on the stand and under oath during the Cohen Commission’s “Diseases” hearing on August 24.
This will be one of the big questions to be answered at the Judicial Inquiry: “To what extent is Salmon Leukemia affecting Fraser River salmon stocks?”
Is ISA Here?
other big question is: “Is Infectious Salmon Anaemia in British
Columbia – and, if so, how is it affecting/could it affect wild salmon?”
And If ISA isn’t lurking in B.C., what other deadly diseases could possibly precipitate such “irrevocable” and “irreparable” financial meltdown were they to be revealed publicly? In Chile, ISA precipitated a financial meltdown which caused an estimated $2 billion in losses as up to 80% of farms were shut down in just a few years.
The Globe & Mail reported in May (in data submitted to the Cohen Inquiry): “There are approximately 35 indications of the existence of ISA identified in these records to date.” But Cermaq maintain, “ISA is not here,” and, “ISA is an East coast disease.”
Cermaq’s Communications Officer in Canada, Grant Warkentin, claimed in a letter to The Courier-Islander in May: “There is no ISA here; the disease is catastrophic for Atlantic salmon, so of course farmers are always looking for it; and again, there is no ISA here.” Cermaq’s Communications and Corporate Sustainability Manager in Canada, Laurie Jensen, claimed during a public meeting in Tofino in June that “ISA is an East coast disease, not a West coast disease” and that symptoms of ISA are not in British Columbia.
Marine Harvest Canada, for their part, concede that there is no guarantee that ISA will not appear in BC. An article, “Are our fish safe from ISA?”,
published in their newsletter in August 2009 concluded: “Can we
guarantee that Marine Harvest Canada will never see ISA? Realistically
no, but Marine Harvest Canada will continue to do everything within its
power to minimize its likelihood of occurring and mitigate its impact
should it ever be found.”
The BCSFA continue to claim publicly at least that “there are no findings of exotic disease” (January 2011) and an “absence of exotic disease” (May 2011). The BCSFA flatly stated in a recent letter to The Courier-Islander, “ISA has not been found here.” Significantly, the letter also admitted that imports of eggs to B.C. continue, despite the science showing vertical transmission: “The small percentage of eggs that are imported are under strict regulations: including limiting sources to countries that have never seen ISA, as well as quarantine and testing programs before they're ever used.”
Judgment DayJudgment Day may be fast approaching for the three Norwegian multinationals – Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg – which control 92% of the BC salmon farming industry. In addition to the scientists, government and industry officials to take the stand, after years of pushing by the industry’s critics, 10 years of disease data for 120 salmon farms in B.C. will be submitted to public scrutiny for the first time.