When it comes to salmon farming on the BC coast, is it any wonder that the average citizen in BC (that takes any interest) might be suffering from post traumatic information overload as the battlefield of naysayers and yaysayers lags on…
How to choose? How to choose?
Who has the facts? Who has the half-facts? Who has the zombie-facts?
Yesterday, CBC.ca ran an article:
B.C.’s first closed, floating salmon-farming tank — touted as a greener alternative to traditional open-net pens — has been installed off Vancouver Island…
…Traditional net pens used for salmon farming in B.C. are open to the ocean and have been criticized for damaging the marine environment. Fisheries scientists have found evidence that salmon farms transmit parasites and pathogens such as sea lice to wild salmon, leading researchers and environmental groups to call for closed-pen farming.
In addition, waste from open-net pens is released directly into local waters and is not always carried away by tides and currents as was anticipated…
Yet, if you go to the new bcsalmonfacts.ca website put out by BC salmon farmers they quote from another study that suggests:
Overall, the results of this study reveal that while a shift to closed-containment technologies may reduce the set of proximate ecological impacts typically associated with conventional salmonid farming, their increased use may also result in substantially increased contributions to several other environmental impacts of global concern, including global warming, acidification, and abiotic resource use.
Although closed-containment systems are currently being described and promoted as environmentally-friendly alternatives to net-pen farming, results of this study suggest that there is an environmental cost associated with employing this technology which should be considered in any further evaluation of their environmental performance
And then the apparent Fish farming Xpert site: “Canada’s biggest bath tub hits the water”:
Canada: a project dubbed as “closed containment” and “environmentally friendly”, aimed at producing salmon at high densities gets it start outside Campbell River.”
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Back to CBC.ca (for example) and the list of related articles looks like this:
- B.C. salmon deaths may be linked to virus
- Pacific salmon not affected by lice: study
- Fish-farm sea lice more widespread than thought
- Fish farming projects in B.C. get funding boost
- B.C. fish farming expansion frozen until December
There’s more back and forth then at the Australian Open tennis grand slam. Average citizens sitting there watching flaming cocktails thrown back and forth, back and forth.
The media?… well they simply report the headlines of what the multitude of studies are saying and absolutely love this conflict of studies, scientists, advocates, and so on. It’s great news; great press.
How is anyone sitting somewhere in the middle on this issue — which is a big middle, as the gap between the two sides is about as big as the great open ocean trenches — supposed to be able to read some information here, read some information there, do some reflection, ask some questions, and make up their own mind?
It’s certainly possible, however for average folks busy with their families and work lives… the bickering and lobbing of cocktails back and forth probably gets a little tiring. It certainly does for myself, I just happen to have an almost lifelong interest in salmon and therefore read what I can, ponder, ask some questions, and so on.
And, thus my disappointment at the stretching of apparent facts, cherry-picking ideas, and Spin-cycle currently being engaged in by the bcsalmonfacts.ca campaign. (This isn’t to say that I haven’t had my disappointment at the other side for certain tactics or propensity for Spin either… this is just the topic of today)
At the same time anyone is welcome to opinions anytime… One might simply hope that there is some backing to the opinion, or at least an openness to listen to the opposite perspective on that opinion (and there is to some degree in that ‘facts’ campaign thus far — however it is a risk, and the worm can is open).
When some folks start claiming to have the “truth” — the “facts” — well, then I immediately get a sense there may not be much difference then apparent religious prophets, turned TV evangelists, trying to sell folks on the purple Kool-Aid (and donations to their 30,000 sq ft church, and highest in the county jesus statue outside).
Certain ‘scripture’ and phrases from apparent sacred texts, are twisted and turned — words and ideas are shaped to fit what it is that they are selling. Scientific reports are cherry-picked to get an idea across — meanwhile another scientific report that directly refutes the first is conveniently not mentioned, or forgotten, or has the methodology questioned, or personal credibility attacks mounted against authors, and so on.
For example, follow some of the responses from the bcsalmonfacts.ca folks on their website and one can start to see a curious mix of ideas starting to surface. There are comparisons between hatchery practices and salmon farming, used in conjunction with concerns of the ‘carrying capacity of the ocean’ (as if this was something anyone or group could actually measure with any accuracy whatsoever — we can’t even get the weather right after a few days with any level of accuracy).
There is the odd justification for open-pen salmon farming because farmed salmon have better feed conversion rates than cows, pigs and chickens. This is then stretched to suggest that since wild salmon can consume 10x their weight in fish that this then makes farming salmon more responsible and efficient than the wild.
Not to forget the fact that the graphs on yesterday’s post showed that one of the growing components of feed for farmed salmon is poultry… chickens.
One of the studies linked to by one of the bcsalmonfacts.ca responses (Not All Salmon Are Created Equal: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Global Salmon Farming Systems) to one of my comments suggests that in Canada, the composition of “animal derived meals and oils” (as separate from fish meal and oils) is approximately 20%. That suggests farmed salmon are being fed about 20% or so of ground up chicken — doesn’t it?
Oh, is that wild chickens then?
Or, are those the same inefficient chickens that farmed salmon ‘feed to meat conversion rates’ are compared to?
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These blending of ideas and theories and hypotheses are all fine and dandy as opinion, and stretching and turning things like silly putty to fit your ideas…
When you take the plunge to say you have the “facts”, then you should probably tread carefully and responsibly and make sure you “stick to the facts, mam”.
You don’t have the “facts” when you simply quote from one scientific study and not another that refutes the same idea. These are selective facts, because the ‘fact’ is that there are disputed ‘facts’. (in a sense that’s what the legal system is — isn’t it… advocating positions to determine the “facts”? and many are familiar with how that system can be manipulated from time to time.)
You don’t have the “facts” when you start conveniently twisting some information and not others to fit what many might label a bias perspective. (I expect to get called on the same tactics)
It also seems a bit slippery when one fact might very well be a ‘fact’: like ‘salmon swim in the water’ and then right beside that state a little more slippery fact that is actually the subject of much debate.
Is that ‘transparency’ or simply baking a ‘fact’-cake from a variety of half-fact ingredients?
And I mean this for all sides.
How slippery should we allow the facts slide to be?
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Here is a thought from Mr. Orwell from his 1946 essay: Politics and the English Language that I included in a post this summer following the announcement of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement: Orwell’s sections of a “prefabricated henhouse”).
It seems fitting in a few ways:
This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
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Pre-fabricated henhouses; fact-cake made from chicken scratch and half-facts; bumpf-filled pie… all sort of the same thing…
Who really has the facts?