Salmon farmers… altruistic or claptrap?

Appears to be a pretty significant ruling yesterday coming out of the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser Sockeye. Justice Cohen made a ruling on the production of salmon farming – aquaculture health records.

As outlined in the Commission ruling, back in July the aquaculture and conservation coalitions (granted “standing” in the Commission) requested documents pertaining to fish health in relation to salmon farming operations from the Province, federal government, and BC Salmon Farmer’s Association (BCSFA). The request was for data going back as far as 1980.

Here is paragraph 3 from the  ruling:

The BCSFA wrote to commission counsel on July 30, 2010, advising that it found the Initial Request “overreaching in its scope, both in terms of the kinds of documents requested and the period of time which the request covers.” The BCSFA expressed concern about the temporal scope of the Initial Request:
“We are concerned that expanding the timeframe of the evidence placed before the Commission will detract from the Commission’s process and will place additional financial pressures on all participants. As a practical consideration, the Commission should seek to limit the scope of the investigation to material times, which based upon our understanding of the Terms of Reference, would be within the last five to ten years.”

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Hmmm… when I read this sort of stuff, I immediately have alarm bells going off (maybe it’s just me). Sure I have a bias towards “conservation first” when it comes to salmon… oh but wait… so does the federal department of fisheries and oceans… as a legislated mandate.

So my bias out in the open…

If BC Salmon farmers are so sure that open-pen salmon farming is not impacting BC’s wild salmon or the BC coast — then why not just be good ‘ol: “open & transparent”…?

You know, like the open-pen nets that they use to raise farmed salmon.

If the general public has “nothing to be concerned about” then why haven’t the fish health records been front and centre on the salmon farmers association website, or just openly shared?

See… the biggest salmon farmers on the coast are publicly traded companies — e.g. Marine Harvest. As a result they have to have an open book policy when it comes to finances.

These finances have to be shared quarterly and openly reported. Now, of course, most of us are well familiar with the ability of some companies to ‘cook’ the books, like a badly poached salmon — (remember Enron and Arthur Anderson?)

So why is it then… that when asked for fish health records, the BC Salmon Farmers Association took the altruistic approach:

‘oh gee… you know, we think that would just be too much work for the Commission, and the lawyers, and everyone involved. There’s much more important things to focus on, and we really don’t want to burden you with ALL that silly information…’

I call “Bullshit”… and I haven’t even filled out my bullshit bingo card yet.

I take this as akin to phoning Telus and getting the automated response: “your call is important to us, please stay on the line…”

If my call was so frigging important then why don’t you have more people (e.g. in some foreign country) to answer my fricking call!

Don’t patronize me… don’t even bother having some robotic voice bullshitting me… Just tell me the truth: “sorry, we’re really busy, we’ll be with you as soon as possible… and in the meantime we will pay you $1 per minute for your time on this call and credit your next bill… because your time is more important than our time”.

(of course they wouldn’t do this, because then Telus, or Bell, or Rogers, or [enter company name here] would be paying their customers more than the $5/day they’re paying the folks answering the phones.

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“Customer service” rant aside…

Should we really be led to believe that the simple reason for not sharing fish health data from salmon farms all along the BC south coast is because it would produce too much paper?

Better yet, the BC Salmon Farmers Association proposed:

In its letter, the BCSFA proposed providing the commission with “aggregated data for the years 2007 to 2009 from the Fish Health Documents with a report summarizing and explaining the raw data …”

Apologies BCSFA, but I take that to suggest in this day of public relations spin to suggest: “we will weed out the bad info and give you the good stuff.”

Why the hell would the BCSFA give anything to the Cohen Commission that might implicate them, or even raise questions? That’s akin to suicide.

Instead, it appears the BCSFA would like to practice their own form of “closed containment” rather than “O-Pen”…

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When I read this sort of stuff, it starts to hark of cigarette manufacturers denying the health consequences of smoking, (or the current PR spin being mounted by the Tarsands operators in Alberta suggesting their operations are rather benign…).

Rumors suggest that BC Salmon Farmers have hired PR and marketing firms that have, or do, work for cigarette sellers.

I must say, it starts to make sense when I read this sort of claptrap.

Does the BCSFA really think that the general public — and Commission lawyers, and others — would buy the fact that they have nothing to hide, yet would much rather just present “aggregate” data (that they choose) only from the last two years rather than just open the books for the last decade or so?

Come on… even the logging industry on coastal BC has openly come out over the last decade and said: “gee, we need to change our practices”…



I don’t know if it could be said much better than this morning’s post from Seth Godin:

The appearance of impropriety

Marketing is actually what other people are saying about you.

Like it or not, true or not, what other people say is what the public tends to believe. Hence an imperative to be intentional about how we’re seen.

It may be true that the effluent from your factory is organic, biodegradable and not harmful to the river. But if it is brown and smelly and coming out of an open pipe, your neighbors might draw their own conclusions.

I know you washed your hands just before you walked into the examination room, but if you wash them again, right here in front of me, all doubts go away.

Yes, Ms. Congressperson, I know that lobbyist is your good friend, but perhaps someone else should host you on vacation.

Your brother-in-law may very well be the most qualified person on the planet to do this project for us, but perhaps (unfair as it might be) it would be better marketing to hire the second-most-qualified person instead.

Sneaking around is a bad strategy. You will get caught. Ironically, it’s also a bad strategy to not sneak around but appear to be.

You will never keep people from talking. But you can take actions to influence the content of what they say.

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Yes… indeed.

2 thoughts on “Salmon farmers… altruistic or claptrap?

  1. Ed Coster

    Feel better now? Feels good to vent doesn’t it. Keep it mind that salmon farmer fish health data (raw data) gets sent to government and is audited by government. So, the farmers aren’t hiding anything. So perhaps your venting to the wrong persons?

  2. salmon guy Post author

    thanks for the comment Ed,
    perhaps you might be exactly right, and maybe the Commission will open this issue up. If you are right, it still leaves me curious on why this wasn’t the response from the BCSFA to the Cohen Commission?

    Why the suggestions of “aggregate” data and wiggling around the “temporal” requests?
    Why not just say — “hey folks, we gave all this data to government… go ask them for the data”
    “here’s all the same data we sent to government… fill your boots”.

    Add the recent court case that transferred fish farming back to the feds from the Province… it’s a shmozzle… and no question — venting should be widely dispersed.
    It’s all a bit fishy and sure would be nice if there was some relatively definitive info on this — as opposed to the constant spin on this issue (often from all sides) and ongoing game of hide-and-seek.
    Maybe the Cohen Commission will provide that… maybe not…

    there is also a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek here…

    thanks again.

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