Tag Archives: salmon farming

“Salmon-Killing Virus Seen for First Time in the Wild on the Pacific Coast” & PR tactic #4: cover-your-ass-in-case-its-right Rule

And the story goes global.

“Salmon-killing virus… on Pacific coast”

Can you say Public Relations nightmare for salmon farmers of the world…?

Was listening to CBC Radio this morning and the second story on “World Report” was this one. Even the New York Times is in on the story:

Salmon-Killing Virus Seen for First Time in the Wild on the Pacific Coast

A lethal and highly contagious marine virus has been detected for the first time in wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, researchers in British Columbia said on Monday, stirring concern that it could spread there, as it has in Chile, Scotland and elsewhere.

Farms hit by the virus, infectious salmon anemia, have lost 70 percent or more of their fish in recent decades. But until now, the virus, which does not affect humans, had never been confirmed on the West Coast of North America.

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This isn’t only a problem in Canada. Check out the BBC and other news outlets in Scotland and the UK.

Fish farm ban on cards for [Scottish] coasts

Published on Monday 17 October 2011

THE Scottish Government may introduce laws banning fish farms from operating in some coastal areas.

It could follow Norway, where the law has restricted the spread of farms after growing concerns over the depletion of wild stocks.

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Now you know what all of this means, don’t you?

Some serious PR-tactics, campaigns, and speech writing (e.g., “marketing is everything, everything is marketing”) due to come out of salmon farmers — especially the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

First rule of any PR campaign — DENY, DENY, DENY.

Second rule: question veracity of results.

Third rule: question credibility of researchers (that’s already started in comments on this site)

Fourth rule: state how well you have things under control — this is the: cover-your-ass-in-case-its-right rule)

Yesterday was a quick press release from the salmon farmers:

Suspect findings of ISA of concern to BC’s salmon farmers

A press release today from Simon Fraser University regarding reports that two wild Pacific salmon have tested positive for Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) is of concern to BC’s salmon farmers.

Our members are actively following up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA is reviewing the validity of these publicized but as yet unconfirmed results. The BC Salmon Farmers Association has not yet been able to review the findings.

“Farm-raised Atlantic salmon, unlike their Pacific cousins, are susceptible to ISA, so this is a concern for our operations, but much less likely to be an issue for the different Pacific species,” said Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director for Grieg Seafood. “If these results are valid, this could be a threat to our business and the communities that rely on our productive industry.”

The results were reportedly found in juvenile Sockeye smolts in Rivers Inlet – an area north of most salmon farms. These fish would not have passed aquaculture operations, but our farmers remain concerned about what this means, and how the disease, which is not native to British Columbia, may have been introduced.

“Samples from BC’s salmon farms are tested regularly for ISA by our regulator’s fish health departments and have never found a positive case on a farm. Over 4,700 individual fish samples have been assessed and proven to be negative.  These unconfirmed findings certainly are unexpected, unusual and warrant further investigation,” said Clare Backman, Sustainability Director for Marine Harvest Canada.

Extensive egg importation regulations were implemented years ago to ensure that disease is not imported to BC waters. Experts testified at the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon that these regulations were strong and proactive in reducing the risk of disease. Testing done by third party researchers in the past on wild Sockeye have returned negative results for ISA as well. Biosecurity protocols both within each company and across the industry also protect the health of wild and farmed fish.

“Our fish remain healthy and we are seeing no indication of the presence of ISA,” said Hawthorn. “It is very important that our fish remain healthy – to support our ongoing commitment to our businesses, our communities and our environment.”

The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon-farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.


Stewart Hawthorn
Managing Director, Grieg Seafood
(250) 202-8588

Clare Backman
Director of Sustainability, Marine Harvest Canada [and former DFO employee]
(250) 850-9554

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Well done, I think all rules were covered.

Make sure to put in language that places a little seed of doubt “suspect findings” “apparent” “reportedly” and so on.

Stay tuned as this story will most likely get more interesting.



Is this salmon double speak?

The Vancouver Sun reported a few weeks ago in this article (Salmon-farm reactivation reignites environmental debate) that some salmon farming areas directly in the path of migrating Fraser River and other southern BC salmon might be re-opened after two years of sitting fallow (inactive).

…By adding another half million farmed fish to the sensitive migration route, Marine Harvest is sending a signal to British Columbians that they are not concerned about the impact their fish farms are having on wild salmon,” said Michelle Young, of the Georgia Strait Alliance and the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform.

The major concern is that the farm will put the offspring of the collapsed 2009 Fraser River sockeye run at risk, she said.

But Clare Backman, Marine Harvest sustainability director, said the farm will be managed carefully to ensure there is no effect on wild salmon.

The fallowing was part of a normal pattern and the farm is being reopened because of a subletting request, he said. “Using these sites has not been in our plan, but Grieg Seafood asked if they could use the site.” Backman said.

The site is up to date and complies with all the rules, he said.

As in all Marine Harvest farms, disease and sea lice are addressed to ensure there is no threat to wild salmon, Backman said…

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But I don’t really understand…

On March 2, 2010 Gail Shea the federal Minister of Fisheries & Oceans announced in a “Ministerial Statement” entitled Fisheries Negotiations at British Columbia Treaty Tables:

The Government of Canada is deferring the negotiation of fisheries components at treaty tables in British Columbia that involve salmon, pending the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River [Cohen Commission].

The deferral of fisheries related negotiations will allow for treaty negotiations to be staged so that fish chapters in treaties can be informed by the findings and recommendations of the Inquiry. (my emphasis)

Some might say, “hey that’s prudent… defer these vital chapters of an already stalled and slow process until Justice Cohen can report.”

The ministerial release continues:

“The Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks have been in decline and the Commission of Inquiry has been established to investigate the matter. The Commissioner has been mandated with investigating the causes for the decline, assessing the current state of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks and long term projections for those stocks, and making recommendations for improving the sustainability of the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River.

The Commission is expected to provide an interim report in August, 2010 followed by a final report by May 1, 2011. [this has now been extended to June 2012 with an additional $11 million budget injection]

“The findings of the Commission of Inquiry may have implications for management of other Pacific salmon fisheries, and it is therefore prudent to defer negotiations on the fisheries components of treaties in British Columbia.

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“…may have implications for management of other Pacific salmon fisheries…”

That’s an important line here, because if one looks at the main reason why DFO and the Province of BC just got slapped in BC Supreme Court in 2009… it was because:

In February 2009, the British Columbia Supreme Court (BCSC) ruled that the activity of aquaculture is a fishery which falls under exclusive federal jurisdiction pursuant to sub-section 91(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867 – Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries and, in effect, struck down substantial portions of the provincial regulatory regime governing aquaculture.

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So, its “prudent” to shutdown First Nation treaty negotiations surrounding fisheries so as to await the recommendations of the Cohen Commission… however, not so prudent to discuss whether fallowed open-pen salmon farming sites (e.g. another form of “fishing”) should be re-opened along wild salmon migration routes?

Yes, yes, I can hear the salmon farming advocates now… however, the BC Salmon Farmers Assoc. and others would not have been granted “standing” in the Cohen Commission if all the science and proof was in that salmon farming does not impact wild salmon.

Or, that salmon farming as currently practiced may need to be scaled back.

Or, that maybe fallowed sites should not be opened just yet.

There’s still some important questions to be answered here (hopefully some by the Cohen Commission, although it’ll not be till 2012 now…) — hence the prudence in Treaty negotiations… but not so much in more “economic” fisheries activities?

Might this be a little double speak? A little double standard?

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And this on the coattails of the 2009 Supreme Court decision that made it clear that the two governments didn’t even know who was supposed to be the umpire at the ball game, let alone who was on first base…

And then everyone should trust the companies when they state: “The site is up to date and complies with all the rules”?

This, when the wrong team was developing and ‘enforcing’ the rules for a good decade or two (the Province of BC)… let alone ensuring the right rules were in place to ensure protection of wild salmon and other marine species…

Sure there might be “compliance” with the rules, but does that mean the “rules” are the right rules?

The rules of the road suggest that in some places the speed limit is 80 km/hr… yet accidents still happen even when complying with the rules of the road and the speed limit…

Somebody call the donation police — salmon advocacy gone wild…?

Is there a misunderstanding out there surrounding the difference between “non-profit” vs. “profit” corporations?

It seems there might be. This relates to some interesting PR sliding around about how a collection of non-profit organizations is largely responsible for some negative publicity and public perception surrounding salmon farming in BC. Comments have been left on this site suggesting as much, and various other comments made in other places.

I came across this article written by Ms. Walling the Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association from 2009:

Unaccountable Advocacy: Advocacy groups claim to have the public’s interest at heart, but how do we know which of these self-styled experts are credible?

Wild salmon in British Columbia are facing extinction. Electromagnetic radiation from high voltage power lines is causing childhood cancer. Vaccines cause autism in children.

What are we to make of these statements?

All are taken from news stories; all were made by so-called experts from advocacy groups working on behalf of the public good; all are sensational and emotional.

Ummm… yeah, wild salmon for example are a rather important critter in the psyche of British Columbia — and actually all around the Pacific Rim, so no kidding there might be some sensational and emotional comments.

Extinction of wild salmon runs?

Well… it’s already here. There are numerous wild salmon runs in BC that have disappeared; never to be seen again; extinct.

Does this cause a rise of emotions and sensations? You bet it does.

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The article continues:

…And while the use of an emotional argument to pique the public’s attention in important issues need not be a problem, it does raise questions.

Are advocacy groups manipulating the media? Are journalists probing the claims of activist groups with the same scrutiny as is applied to business and industry? If not, should they be?

And, so, what are major corporations doing in mass PR campaigns that involve the media?

This news forecast is brought to you by So-and-so chunky soup, or so-and-so apparel… Oh, and while you’re watching this newscast we will blitz you with these various segments of commercials… (e.g. “do you believe everything you hear…?)

And really… is it up to journalists to do the scrutiny? Sure, to a certain degree; however, most mass media are simply for-profit corporations with shareholders to answer to as well.

The job of scrutiny and critical thinking lies with the consumer of the information, or the consumer of a product.

Nobody has a gun to their head saying they have to buy the Volvo over the Subaru because journalist “x” reports, or some magazine for consumers reports that Volvo’s are safer.

It’s free choice and critical thinking (or not)

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Non-governmental organizations today are a powerful force. They have credibility that businesses lack.

Gee… I wonder why? How do you spell Enron again?

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And it’s become big business. There are more than 3,000 so-called nonprofit environmental groups in the U.S. today, most of which take in over $1 million annually… In one recent year, Greenpeace International took in $35 million, the National Audubon Society $79 million, the National Wildlife Federation $102 million, the Sierra Club $74 million, the Nature Conservancy $972 million, and the World Wildlife Fund $118 million.

Oh no, somebody call the donation police…

And what did the Red Cross, the United Way, and the local food bank take in?

In addition, each of these groups holds assets ranging from $16.3 million to $2.9 billion. Perazzo concludes that “no trade association on earth possesses the financial resources and political influence of the environmental lobby.”

Ummm… how about trade associations that represent U.S. Banks? Or, how about the World Bank?

Or, what sort of donations, influence, and financial resources does the National Rifle Association possess in the U.S.?

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Many advocacy groups are perceptive manipulators of public opinion. They view the media as a conduit for information and often approach news outlets with stories of conflict and controversy, and which appear to be backed by research or expert opinion. Journalists – driven by deadlines, editorial pressure, and the push to entertain rather than inform – sometimes run with the story without applying the same scrutiny to the claims of advocacy groups that they would apply to business, industry, or government.

And what is the current ‘bcsalmonfacts’ campaign, but little more than attempting to manipulate public opinion?

And what is the BC Salmon Farmers Association again? Oh right, an advocacy group… and one of those apparent evil non-governmental ones at that?

Advocacy groups go out with stories of conflict and controversy… maybe… but does the media do a better job of that on its own? Most certainly.

Same scrutiny as business, industry and government?… yeah, maybe not, however, advocacy groups aren’t spending tax dollars or earning social license to utilize public resources with the simple sake of earning profit for shareholders.

Big difference.

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Online resource explaining some differences:

Non-profit corporations are formed pursuant to federal or provincial law. A non-profit corporation can be a church or church association, school, charity, medical provider, activity clubs, volunteer services organization, professional association, research institute, museum, or in some cases a sports association.

Non-profit corporations must apply for charitable status to benefit from tax-exempt status and to issue tax deductible receipts to donors. Non-profit corporations are distinct from business corporations which are formed to make a profit and to distribute the profit to its shareholders.

Business corporations are regulated by either federal or provincial laws.

That is why there are rules around securities and publicly-traded companies; that is why insider trading is bad; that is why ridiculous multi-million dollar lawsuits are launched around simple claims such as: “Canada’s most reliable wireless network”. The stating of which costs millions in law suits between Canada’s big telco companies Rogers, Telus and Bell.

If a business corporation operates by federal and provincial laws, then it can’t go off making false claims and engaging in false advertising. Or…well… it can, until it gets called on it and sued — or otherwise.

Non-profit, non-governmental, advocacy groups are part of doing business in democracies. Nike deals with it. BP deals with it. Exxon deals with it.

They probably even work in the cost of doing so; probably even form their own non-governmental special interest groups to engage in advocacy of their own.

Look at the history of cigarette manufacturers, they had — and most likely still do — have little side PR organizations.

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The job of holding any organization accountable doesn’t lie with journalists — it lies with individuals.

Passionate about something? Go learn more about it and form your own opinion.

Just as the Wikipedia definition suggests:

[Advocacy] may be motivated from moral, ethical or faith principles or simply to protect an asset of interest.

Some is good, some is not. User beware.

Spinning the Spin that spins the spin..?

As suggested in several other posts: everything is marketing and marketing is everything.

When it comes to salmon, there are few exceptions. From the organizations that intend to “save the salmon” to the organizations that intend to catch as many as possible; from the small local organization working in local creeks to mega multinationals intending to farm salmon and sell them to well-off, endless-demanding consumers.

Over the past few weeks there have been several posts here commenting on the apparent ‘facts’ of the “bcsalmonfacts.ca” website and PR campaign launched by the BC Salmon Farmers Association and the multinational companies engaged in salmon farming on BC’s coast.

A few more details of that campaign surfaced this past week. Marketing magazine ran an article on the advertising/PR firm DDB Canada: BC Salmon Farmers swimming through ‘misunderstanding’ .

Salmon farming is one of the more contentious issues in British Columbia, and one of the least understood–that’s the message from a $1.5 million campaign just launched by BC Salmon Farmers.

That’s no chum-p change… $1.5 million simply to “get the story straight”?

One thought that crosses my mind… maybe the Salmon Farmers Assoc. should have looked at why opponents to salmon farming have been so successful in communicating their message over the years.

It sure wasn’t through hiring the Canadian subsidiary (DDB Canada: “the most celebrated creative agency in Canada for the past decade”) of a major international Advertising firm (DDB: “Highly ranked, worldwide advertising agency”) and spending a cool $1.5 million.

And the crazy thing about all this, is that it is simply Public Relations (PR) — nothing more, nothing less:

It’s really not about selling more salmon in BC, it’s more about making people aware of the value of the industry,” said Cosmo Campbell, creative director at DDB Vancouver. “It’s an area that is so volatile and I think a lot has to do with the history of the province and our love affair with salmon.”

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“…Making people aware of the value…”

Interesting phrase and choice of words.

This is a component of a point I have suggested several times… “making people aware” implies people don’t have free will, intelligence, and abilities to make up their own mind… they need to be “made” aware by outside forces.

In this case, $1.5 million worth of ‘creative’ material from one of Canada’s leading advertisement firms.

And, really… if this is — exactly as suggested — about the history of BC and our “love affair with salmon”… are average BC’ers going to suddenly change their mind about the potential dangers of farming salmon (mostly Atlantic) in open-net pens along sensitive areas of the BC coast — simply because some slick, well-funded, PR campaign suggests they need to ‘buy the farm’ that BC Salmon Farmers are ‘selling’?

For example, there is ‘negligible impact of salmon farming on wild salmon’… that salmon farming, in fact, “protects wild fish stocks”… and that we — BC’ers — should simply accept the apparent economic benefits of salmon farming in sensitive areas of coastal BC.

Some day, maybe these sorts of claims can be made with some level of un-bias confidence — however, the current reality – or “fact” of the matter — is that the jury is still deliberating on these claims – on both sides.

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Curiously, if one looks at the snazzy DDB Canada website… there are some claims about what this firm represents.

(I suggest this gently and respectively, as there does appear to be some good work on social causes within the firm.)

On their website under “DDB Cares“:

We’ve been called a lot of things. Do-gooders is our favorite.

Whether it’s convincing thousands of Canadians to donate blood, helping the Looking Glass foundation scale new heights in awareness and fundraising for eating disorders, or simply using advertising to stop crime for our client Crime Stoppers, DDB has a long and rich history of supporting social causes. In fact, the values of giving back and being environmentally responsible are a part of our very fabric and culture.

We were the first Agency to “Go Green” conducting waste and carbon audits and setting targets to know where and how we could become better environmental citizens.

Curiously enough though, one of the well-known ad campaigns of this firm is the Subaru car commercials with the sumo wrestlers prancing around with hoses and such.

Someone does have to ask: how “go green” can you be when you do car advertisements?

Current estimates suggest that automobiles emit somewhere around 2.8 billion tonnes of tailpipe emissions worldwide (Macrowikinomics). So, if you are a firm that is simply promoting that more people should buy more cars… are you “green” — or, are you green-washing?

The point here… marketing is everything and everything is marketing.

And thus, if this slick PR campaign has nothing to do with selling more farmed fish… and that it is more about “making” people aware specifically:

[the] target group [of this campaign is] mostly males 40+ likely grew up fishing with their fathers and have watched the decline in fish stock over the years. “They want to point the finger at something and the bad guy is being painted as the salmon farms because they are the only thing that has visibly changed,” he said. “It’s an easy target to bully. The younger generation is a bit more open- minded and understands the value.”

Can’t say I think that sort of focus will change much… not sure how many of those male 40+ers are voting these days… but so be it, I’m not an award winning creative ad agency…

However, here’s something to ponder from the DDB International website:

Respect for the Customer

DDB has long led the way by recognizing that brands are in the hands of consumers, not brand managers. Nothing is more important and relevant today.

Hmmm… might that then suggest that PR is somewhat irrelevant then?

And do we demonstrate respect when we suggest it’s all about “making” people understand or:

Mary Ellen Walling, executive director at BC Salmon Farmers, said British Columbians don’t know a lot about the industry and what they do know is usually wrong.

Silly B.C.’ers… don’t know nuthin, ’bout nuthin.

Good thing there are PR firms out there that will fix the facts…

Who has the facts? Who has the half-facts? Who has the zombie-facts?

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:


Closed-pen salmon farm launches in B.C.

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…

But “facts”?

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?

“Separating Fact from Fiction”?

Fish Feed Circa 1990


Fish Feed Today








Making an evidence presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus consuming a presentation is also an intellectual and moral activity.

~Edward Tufte, introduction to his book Beautiful Evidence


Separating Fact from Fiction” is the headline of the recent Vancouver Sun’s ‘exclusive online and commentary opinion’ by Ms. Walling Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmer’s Association:

BCsalmonfacts.ca is a website that raises some of the common myths that we hear questions about, and provides answers through video, written explanations, animations and links to supporting documents. BC Salmon Facts also includes a discussion forum, where people can ask questions and debate the facts and answers…

As you may have read in on this blog this past week, I have some posts asking questions about some apparent BC salmon facts on the same named website — as well as pondering some of the strategies and tactics of the PR campaign.

As Ms. Walling suggests in her opinion piece:

We’ve learned that … those asking ‘tough’ questions appreciate having someone who can explain the answer and give some straight forward information. It makes the discussion rational and reasoned.

I agree… rational and reasoned would certainly prove beneficial in this searing, glowing red amber hot button issue. As mentioned, I take issue at times with PR-spin conducted on all sides of the equation.

Good discussion, requires decent information.

As such, I have questioned some of the “facts” posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website, and posted a few ‘tough’ questions (although maybe the jury is out on how tough those are…). Looking to thoughts from Ms. Walling’s editorial piece last year on the same Vancouver Sun weblog titled “Fishing for Proof” might assist here:

Scientists working for environmental organizations have a legitimate right to be involved in the decision-making process on issues such as salmon farming. However, their use of sensational claims has created an ethical battlefield where business interests are portrayed as being in opposition to environmental interests…

…To be successful in addressing the factors that are adversely affecting wild salmon populations in B.C., business, industry, government and non governmental organizations will need to work together. We need to have rational discussions about the cause and possible effects and we need to work together to move beyond rhetoric towards solutions. [my emphasis]

(which I’m guessing means the definition of rhetoric as: “Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous.”… vacuous basically suggesting empty, devoid of substance…)

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On yesterday’s post, I quoted from one of my favorite information design experts Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University. In his most recent book Beautiful Evidence. One reviewer suggests: “Tufte will get you thinking about the meaning of words and images, not to mention your ability to tell the truth”.

Beautiful Evidence -- Edward Tufte

In this fine book, Tufte states in his Introduction:

Evidence that bears on questions of any complexity typically involves multiple forms of discourse. Evidence is evidence, whether words, numbers, images, diagrams, still or moving. The intellectual task remains constant regardless of the mode of evidence: to understand and to reason about the materials at hand, and to appraise their quality, relevance and integrity.

And, this appears to be the case with the bcsalmonfacts.ca PR campaign. The “facts” posted on the website are accompanied by ‘evidence’ — as opposed to “rhetoric”…?

As in: “moving beyond rhetoric.”

Moving beyond empty, meaningless language that does not improve discussions…

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I refer to some rhetoric as bumpf (search the term and category on this blog site) — empty meaningless phrases that don’t really mean much; overused and empty… like eating chocolate bars as part of a healthy weightloss diet.

Air Pie; things said that don’t really mean anything; words used in ways that forget actual definitions.

I’ve hit on some of these terms on various posts on this site, for example: sustainability, ecosystem-based management, conservation, etc… They are used by all sides of many debates, and yet few seem to stop and ask: “hey, wait a second, what definition of ‘sustainability’ are you working from?”…

Or: “what do you mean when you say: conservation?”

Here are groups of folks throwing burning cocktails at each other and we don’t even know whether they share the same definitions of some words in the debate… it’s thus, a bit of an empty, meaningless argument — like the words.

It’s akin to parents arguing about “disciplining” their children when one parent believes discipline means: throttling a child and getting the wooden spoon, and the other parent thinks ‘discipline’ is: sending a misbehaving child to a corner for a little timeout.

It’s becomes a pointless discussion if neither understands where the other is coming from or what the other person means when they say “[enter word here]”…

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So let’s look at an apparent “fact” or ‘BC salmon fact’:

Salmon feed is designed specifically to conserve wild fish stocks.

Today’s feed minimizes the use of wild fish protein and oils. Review these charts to see the ingredients in salmon feed today, compared to what they were in the 1990s.
Fish Feed Circa 1990
Fish Feed Today
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We can see by the chart that there is a reduction in the use of “fish meal protein” and “fish oil” with a significant increase in “poultry and plant protein meal”.  Yes, that’s a good for lots of little fish in the sea (e.g. anchovies, sardines, and such) that get caught in other parts of the world and ground up into fish meal and fish oil.

(One of the first question that pops to my mind is: what’s the percentage of “poultry” to “plant protein meal”, those are two very different things; however, that’s besides the point of critically exploring the evidence at hand.)

The logic here suggests that because there is less fish meal and fish oil used in the feed that this: ‘conserves wild fish stocks’.


I’ve raised this point before in the use of this word: “conservation”.

Conservation means: “To protect from loss or harm; preserve”

Preserve means a few things:

1. To maintain in safety from injury, peril, or harm; protect.
2. To keep in perfect or unaltered condition; maintain unchanged.

Those are pretty clear definitions, thus, how can we say we are “conserving” something; or “preserving” something; or even “protecting” something… if what we actually mean is that we have “reduced” use?

So is not the fact that is beings stated here more like this: “salmon feed research and development is working to reduce our pressures on wild fish stocks”?

And,  “we can demonstrate evidence of this by this by a certain graph and text”?

Because if we say we are “conserving” when we’re simply “reducing”, then aren’t we just engaged in rhetoric? And using “sensational claims” on these “ethical battlefields”?

Words are important, so are images, and shouldn’t they be used to develop better understanding, not further muddy the waters?

How do everyday folks separate “fact from fiction” when so many of us forget the real meanings of some words?

Evidence has various definitions, one being: “indicate clearly; exemplify or prove.”

Furthermore, fiction, is suggested to mean: “An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.”

Warning: skewed graphic content?

Fitting quote…

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.

~Mark Amidon

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Hence, why it is pretty important to make best efforts to: mean what you say, and say what you mean.

As famous writer E.B. White suggested:

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

Or as Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University and design expert, suggests in one of his fantastic books Envisioning Information:

Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and for the audience. Chartjunk promoters imagine that numbers and details are boring, dull and tedious, requiring ornament to enliven. Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content…

Worse is contempt for our audience, designing as if readers were obtuse and uncaring. In fact, consumers of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those who fabricate the data decoration. And, no matter what, the operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid.

Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness. Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication.

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Fitting post from Mr. Godin today as well — especially surrounding this highly contentious BC salmon farming issue:

Self-destructive instructions

If you ever have to say ‘lighten up’ to someone, you’ve failed twice. The first time, when you misjudged an interaction and the other person reacted in a way you’re unhappy with, and the second time, when you issue this instruction, one that is guaranteed to evoke precisely the opposite reaction you’re intending.

I’ll add “I was joking,” to this list, because it’s an incredibly lame excuse for a failed interaction.

One more: Raising your voice while you say, “You’re just going to have to calm down!” (And I’ll add librarians yelling at kids to be quiet…)

It’s completely valid to come to the conclusion that someone else can’t be a worthy audience, conversation partner or otherwise interact with you. You can quietly say to yourself, “this guy is a stiff, I’m never going to be able to please him.” But the minute you throw back instructions designed to ‘cure’ the other person, I fear you’re going to get precisely the opposite of what you were hoping for.

(Generally speaking, the word “oh” is so neutral, it’s a helpful go to pause while you wait for things to calm down.)

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Might something akin to this occur with the current PR-campaign by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, or tar sands PR campaigns, or otherwise?

For example, the “bcsalmonfacts” TV commercials that ask the question along the lines of: “do you believe everything you’re told?”

Doesn’t seem to be all that different than TV commercials these days advertising cars as good “environmental choices” and promoting the fact that fewer greenhouse gases were released in the making of the commercial because they put the car on a treadmill of sorts and sprayed it with a hose to make it look like it was raining.

Well, sure, producing the commercial might have saved a few ounces of greenhouse gases, but what about the amount that that same car is going to produce over its lifetime?

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Advertising and PR (and the prime time nightly news and campaigning politicians) that market to folks as if they are the lowest common denominator will (most likely) eventually have things blow up in their face.

All the more complicated… throw in a pile of finger pointing, stabbing and jabbing — attacks on the other sides “science”, credibility, “facts”, and just simple attacks; and… well… many folks just zone out. At least the folks in the middle or maybe even on the fence.

For others that have an impassioned opinion on either side, fires are simply fueled, logs are thrown on the blaze, and the inferno of “who’s more right?” burns through the night. (just like a marriage or family member argument that burns for years because one person is sooo much more right than the other person… and vice versa).

Calm, measured, listening, middle-road approaches — with questions of clarification, attempts at balancing and limiting assumptions, and conversations that seek clarity and understanding (and maybe even agreeing to disagree on some things)… might garner much stronger, lasting results?

Or, is that just pie-in-the-sky idealism?

BC Salmon Farmers PR campaign: continuing the discussion…

I left some more comments today on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website — the Public Relations (PR) spin campaign of the BC Salmon Farmers Association and related companies involved in open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast. I have found it quite an interesting process — from a variety of angles…

As a few of my posts have alluded to this week, looking at the strategy, tactics and approach of this PR campaign has been an interesting process. Launching PR campaigns can be akin to freeing — or trying to cage — a schizophrenic, unpredictable critter.

These sorts of things can be a great success, or an absolute bomb… just like a Hollywood movie.

Backlash can hurt just as much as watching the old movie Backdraft multiple times.

And, thus, these sorts of things must be well-though out and very well managed — even more so when the purpose is “getting the real story out” and espousing “facts”. Think of how many politicians have had campaigns ended or careers ended because they weren’t forthright about certain actions, activities,  from the past.

No matter how many clever commercials they put on TV or social media.

A glaring difference here is that a politician has clear objectives with their PR-campaigns… get elected. When it comes to this ‘salmonfacts’ campaign… well, I’m a little unsure. Some of this relates to, for example, why cannibalize your own businesses.

One of the comments left today on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website in regards to the “fact” that “salmon are incredibly efficient eaters”. Yes, this is a fact, but what isn’t an “efficient eater”…?

And why cannibalize your own business in this process:

some might suggest that this ‘fact’ could be referred to as cannibalism…

And no, I don’t mean in the standard food consumption meaning of the word; more the business meaning of the word.

“Cannibalization refers to the business process whereby engaging in one activity or practice necessarily eats into another activity or practice. Cannibalization can take place within a firm, between businesses, or across industries.”

Last time I checked (and maybe it has changed recently?) Marine Harvest and Marine Harvest Canada [I stand corrected, it’s Skretting not Marine Harvest as Nutreco sold Marine Harvest a few years back] are subsidiaries of Nutreco:

Their website suggests: “Nutreco is a global leader in animal nutrition and fish feed.”

one of their specialties is “Compound Feeds”:

“Compound feeds are complete, industrially blended or compounded feeds which fully match the nutritional requirements of the specified animal (poultry, pigs, ruminants, fish, rabbits, goats, sheep and other species).”

So it seems like this graphic and this concentration on salmon feed conversion rates is a little contradictory when compared to overall business practices of companies listed on this site.

Yes, maybe salmon food conversion rates are lower and this can serve as a front to suggest: look how “sustainable” this business of salmon farming is…

But isn’t it a little hypocritical for a company to sell its “sustainability” practices, by focusing on this specific ad, when the parent company (Nutreco) of this company [Skretting] is actually heavily involved as a majority of its business in developing feed for the poultry, cattle and pig industry, and is in fact invested heavily in poultry and other meats:

“Nutreco’s subsidiary Sada is the Spanish market leader in chicken production and is well known in Spain for its Sada and Cuk brands. Sada also produces a range of chicken products and meal solutions.”

If not hypocritical, its certainly cannibalizing the parent companies businesses.

BC Salmon Farmers, more responses… will I eat farmed crow?

If you have not had a chance to follow all the comments, or are new to the site; here’s a sampling of an exchange that portrays some properties of the BC salmon farming debate and where there may very well continue to be dissonance on this hot ticket issue.

A manager from one of the larger BC salmon farming companies (a very large company, where the salmon farmer is but one tiny cog in a much larger globalized multinational — not to suggest this as a “ohhh, watch out for the bogeyman”… more a reality of the business environment), respectively left some comments in response to my comments on the new PR campaign largely led by the website bcsalmonfacts.ca:

You raise a range of interesting points in your response to my posting on your blog. I do want to address these as best I can. I hope that ultimately you will come and see for yourself what we do and how we do it.

You comment that … in BC there are large populations of wild salmon stocks and the history of wild and farmed interactions is not a very good one.

This is an interesting point – but this is one of the myths that I’d like to see the wider public understand better. The farmers in BC have actually got a great record of living in harmony with wild salmon runs. In the Broughton – increasing pink runs and coho runs. In the Fraser a record sockeye run. Coordinated and effectively managed sealice levels to specifically protect wild stocks (not to protect the farmed fish)…

… Salmon farming is a good economic activity that should be seen as part of the solution to the world’s sustainability problems – it is not, in my view, part of the problem.

You then discuss more generally regarding what are acceptable impacts and how do we determine what is acceptable. You also comment on the role of PR. I’m glad to say that I agree with you here! All human activities have impacts. We do need to debate what is acceptable to the community here in BC.

But the community deserves to hear both sides of the story – PR works both ways and the people who advocate for the elimination of salmon farming (that is what would effectively happen if the industry was legislated out of the natural waterways) are very good at communicating their ideas and concerns. Salmon farmers have a responsibility to explain why we believe that our activities are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

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It is not the entire comment, and I haven’t shortened it to try and take things out of context; more to shorten reading time (and try and keep post length down).

In response, I had a post-length comment, of which I have added a few more thoughts:

thanks for taking the time in continuing this chat. I certainly have to respectfully take issue with a few comments about the ‘myths’ you allude to… like anything, and especially this hot button issue of salmon farming on the BC coast… it is multifaceted with more sides, angles and faces then a polar bear embossed diamond from Nunavut.

I don’t quite buy the ‘fish farms living in harmony with wild salmon runs’ argument… it’s a pretty weak causal connection. If I might use the analogy, it’s like saying clearcut logging had a harmonious relationship with salmon because look at the record Fraser sockeye run this year. “All those years of industrial clearcuts ‘obviously’ didn’t do any damage, look at this record 2010 run. What’s everyone complaining about?”

The jury is most certainly still out on this apparent harmonious relationship between salmon farms and wild salmon. And quite frankly, I agree with the newspaper article posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website today regarding this PR campaign [Vancouver Sun: BC salmon farmers fight back]. Some of the statements made in the salmon farmers press release, and some of the statements on the website, just inflame the situation more than seek resolution.

If the intention truly was to ‘get the real story out’ then why use the “email from Nigerian refugee” analogy — that’s simply inciting. Not that i’m not prone to the same approach from time to time… but this is a PR campaign by big, ‘responsible, companies with many brains at the table (I hope). I would hope the PR firm launching this could come up with something a little more clever than that. (but then, sometimes folks tune me up on my communication tactics too…)

I think I’d have to beg to differ that the runs [Broughton pink and coho] are “increasing”… as compared to what? Late 1990 numbers when there was a zero mortality coho policy? (I have the same issue with DFO and their salmon numbers too… see older posts… colonial cultures tend to have a rather narrow timeframe when they start talking about “historical populations”)

I also struggle with the: ‘farmed salmon is part of a sustainable food supply issue.’

If feed conversion levels are still above 1:1 as in the 1.2 to 1 as claimed on the PR site… that’s still a negative gain — and negative gains are not “sustainable”. If it takes me $1.20 to make $1.00, I don’t think any financial adviser would recommend this investment scheme [as sustainable]?

Furthermore, last time I checked at the local Prince George supermarket, farmed Atlantic salmon prices weren’t all that different then wild salmon prices. I don’t imagine that’s much different in the U.S. where the bulk of BC farmed salmon gets exported too. And thus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I don’t think inner city kids in the U.S. are eating poached or baked salmon at any meal they might secure.

I also don’t imagine that BC salmon farmers are making huge strides to get their product to West Africa in its time of ethnic strife and starvation.

It’s not to suggest that they necessarily should… it’s more that this argument that farmed salmon are a solution to food shortages is seriously flawed. Frankly, salmon is a luxury food that some middle class families can afford — however, cheaper beef, pork and poultry are going to be the meat alternatives to folks on the lower income scale.

[furthermore, there are many studies that suggest there are not food shortages in the world, there are serious issues with distribution… not to mention, food now being used to produce biofuels…]

And thus, I have doubts about the “good economic activity” that you suggest. As far as I can see (which sometimes isn’t that far, depends on how hard its raining), salmon in the marketplace is about supplying higher income folks, and thus, this is why it makes “economic” sense to some. Especially publicly-traded companies that have shareholders to satisfy [and analyst expectations to meet]. I respectfully suggest that this is one of those half truths, half facts that I have mentioned.

You are fair in your comments on PR and yes, I agree in turn — PR is certainly used by all sides. If you’d like, search “Canadian Boreal Forest Initiative Agreement” on this site (or Marine Stewardship Council) and you’ll see I don’t only have issues with corporate PR, there is certainly enviro-NGOs PR campaigns that also drive me batty.

I’m not so sure I agree with the assertion that the salmon farming industry would be “eliminated” if it was taken out of natural waterways…[and I see today there is a new posting on the bcsalmonfacts.ca in this regard]. I’ve seen a few recent presentations that demonstrate the technology and financials around closed-containment systems.

Also… like so many things, industry proponents buried in certain ways of doing things, faced with imminent changes, jump up and down, scream and shout, twist and turn, and lobby the shit out of government to make sure changes are not enforced.

“we will be forced out of business”; “this industry will die”; “people will lose jobs”; and every other possible argument. And then… what to our wonder… real innovative thinking happens… new technology is created, becomes more affordable, and a whole new way of doing things all of a sudden arises.

Look at the incredible growth of organic farming: from food to cotton.

Early on, industry proponents said “no way, won’t happen” and now?… Walmart has jumped on board.
Similar arguments around alternative energy and so on.

And so, I am a bit curious about what you mean by salmon farmers are “part of the solution and not part of the problem” — what solution(s) are you referring to? And which problems?

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A thought came to mind, in relation to yesterday’s post. In that post, I quoted a definition of public relations (PR):

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

If that is the case… then maybe some of the NGO campaigns opposing open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast, in relatively confined inland waterways, aren’t PR, as one could argue those campaigns are not seeking “goodwill” per se. Yet, some of those campaigns certainly employ the spin-factor or latching on to certain very negative components and communicating those in a way that over-emphasizes certain things.

Similar to various companies and corporations these days that advertise how great they are — yet will screw you over at the first opportunity. I recently looked at the back of my bill from Bell, and on the back in hard to read blue fine print it explains they will charge 3% per month interest on overdue balances. That’s 42.58% per year! (they leave that part out on their cute little TV commercials and newspaper ads). Same with the big banks and their mysterious user fees and administrative charges, etc.

This isn’t to say that I’m comparing these tactics directly — simply highlighting a point.

Marketing maven and guru Seth Godin has a fitting post on this from yesterday:

Raising expectations (and then dashing them)

Have you noticed how upbeat the ads for airlines and banks are?

Judging from the billboards and the newspaper ads, you might be led to believe that Delta is actually a better airline, one that cares. Or that your bank has flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed.

At one level, this is good advertising, because it tells a story that resonates. We want Delta to be the airline it says it is, and so we give them a try.

The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all. Why this matters: if word of mouth is the real advertising, then what you’ve done is use old-school ad techniques to actually undercut any chance you have to generate new-school results.

So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have

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This is the danger with the fighting tactics that the salmon farmers have chosen for this PR campaign.

This is a potentially well-funded, infinitely backed PR-spin campaign mounted by massive multinational companies (for the most part). It looks pretty sharp, it uses nice language (e.g. dispelling myths, stating facts, and telling the real story). It’s about ‘putting those evil spin-mongering NGOs in their place, uncover their naysaying, left-leaning, greeny BS.’

The reality check here is that the general BC public — the average folks that in some way or another will make the decisions on whether to get open-pen salmon farming out of BC’s inland waters — will largely see straight through this. We are bombarded daily by hundreds, thousands of ads by large, national or multinational companies spouting off about how great they are, and how it’s just so simple to do business with their ultra-responsible firms.

Yet, when you actually try to call them you’re run through an infuriating automated answering system that doesn’t get you where you need to go. You get repeated “your call is important to us, please continue to hold”, and finally, a person, yet it’s quite apparent they are certainly not in the same time zone as you are.

This particular PR campaign is employing similar tactics, trying to show pizzaz and new aged-ness by engaging social media and so on… but it’s not that much different than BP oil mounting a Facebook PR campaign to change their image… most folks will see through it, the already converted will espouse its merits and why don’t those other dolts buy what we’re selling and stop believing that evil NGO crap.

It’s simply the wrong tactic… it’s old school, it’s tired, and it will most likely be a waste of money.

And worse yet, if the salmon farming naysayers are able to dispel and communicate the other ‘facts’ and the ‘myths posing as facts’ and so of this particular campaign — the salmon farming industry could end out with even more mud on their face. Most folks cheer for the little guy, the underdog, and this is shaping up nicely as well-funded multinationals against average citizens and a handful of NGOs, who have BC citizen membership behind them.

Maybe I’ve seen this picture somewhere before…?

(but who knows, maybe i’ll be forced to eat my words… eat farmed crow… or something)

BC Salmon Farmers continue to engage and respond…

Over this last week, there has been quite a jump in visitors to this blog — it appears largely due to my comments on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website established by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, and a few of the companies involved in this conflict-ridden, hot button industry.

Folks visiting this blog, may or may not follow the comments section. This week there have been comments from a few sides of the issue, including engagement from companies involved in the PR campaign.

It’s certainly an interesting process, discussion, conversation — and some pretty good examples of cognitive dissonance from all sides. As Wikipedia defines it:

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

There’s certainly no shortage of blaming and denying when it comes to the salmon farm debate on the BC coast… there’s also a certain amount of justifying. Well… in fact… it seems the entire bcsalmonfacts.ca PR-campaign is about justifying how great this particular industry is. If you are involved in the industry, it probably looks like roses — if you are an individual who holds the believe that salmon farms may be responsible for reducing wild salmon runs or polluting local clam beds… well, then, it probably smells like a steaming brown pile.

I’m certainly curious to hear the results of this PR-spin campaign and whether it is successful in changing any attitudes, beliefs, and/or actions — and thus, reducing cognitive dissonance… and dissonance (lack of agreement, consistency, or harmony; conflict) in general on this issue.

I would have to imagine that this is the intention of the campaign — otherwise why spend the money?

This is not ‘marketing’ per se… as marketing is suggested to be: “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.”

I’m not so sure this is about selling, as reading the material on the website and otherwise — the industry supplies “fresh salmon” to all sorts of customers. It doesn’t seem to have a problem with securing customers for its product.

And, as suggested in various related material, this is simply about ‘getting the real story out’ and about ‘dispelling myths and expounding facts’.

So let’s slow down for a second here… if marketing is suggested to be about selling products; what is public relations?

Well… public relations (PR) is:

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

Curious that. Because as I understand it, “goodwill” is also something that can be sold as part of a company’s balance sheet:

An intangible asset which provides a competitive advantage, such as a strong brand, reputation, or high employee morale. In an acquisition, goodwill appears on the balance sheet of the acquirer in the amount by which the purchase price exceeds the net tangible assets of the acquired company.

I’m not so sure this is what bcsalmonfacts.ca PR spin campaign is up to — although it wouldn’t hurt, would it?

This PR campaign is about securing goodwill from the public, community, and politicians.

This is somewhat evident in some of the comments coming from industry — including on this site. One salmon farm rep (of which it’s been a respectful discussion) pointed out that if moved out of natural waterways (e.g. to closed containment systems on land) the industry would suffer a calamitous collapse (I’m paraphrasing).

I don’t quite buy this story… and I haven’t yet seen the financial analysis on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website or otherwise that shows the cold, hard numbers on this (e.g. the “facts”). I have though, seen financial analysis on the potential to move to closed containment systems, and it appears profitable.

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And so, what is this really about.

This is about the BC salmon farming industry pooping their pants, and potentially recognizing a little too late that their PR work to date has not been very good, and that they may very well be in danger of getting kicked out the natural waterways; or having their exponential BC growth seriously curtailed, or even shrunk.

That’s not good press for shareholders; and that’s not good press for marketing campaigns.

Growth is marketing; marketing is growth. Good PR helps fuel growth, and good growth is good marketing…

As some of their own team have pointed out in various commentary: ‘this is about fighting back’, ‘this is about correcting misinformation’, and so on, and so on.

I’m not sure I have ever seen or heard of anyone ‘securing goodwill’ by “fighting”. Or by simply employing the same tactics that got them into this particular position in the first place. (Look what happened to the BC coastal logging industry when it was hit by well-run, well-thought out PR and marketplace campaigns… not to necessarily suggest they were ‘right’, simply well run, focused.)

And, thus, strictly from a strategy and tone perspective… I’m not so sure this is the most well thought out campaign. With respect to those that planned it and are implementing it. Simply trying to flip the argument back at say — those nasty NGO misinformation campaigns — is akin to shouting: “no, you’re stupid”… “no, you’re stupid” on the schoolyard.

But then maybe I’m completely wrong on this one… but then a comment that came in while I was typing this post, highlights similar thinking as mine:

You cant blame the fish farm industry for finally adopting PR techniques like the enviros have been using for years….But, this doesnt really help any ‘neutral’ person really make informed decisions.

I want more frankness and openness from fish farmers. Show me the bottom underneath a fish farm on video and prove it is not a dead zone of fish fecal matter etc. Prove, as best you can, that the densities of lice around your farms do not overload juvenile salmon.
And to be precautionary, voluntarily shut down operations during smolt outmigrations or sensitive times.
In other words be more proactive, but not with PR spin which this debate is overloaded with.  The old ‘actions speak louder than words’ type thing.

So, overall for this discussion fish farmers employing the same spin tactics as enviros leaves alot to be desired. If farming isnt bad…prove it openly and clearly. If certain facets of farming are doing some harm admit it and find ways to fix it….then maybe joe average can have some faith in what is said on websites.

For better or worse, any industry will always be looked at skeptically when it comes to its environmental record… It’s basic human nature to think corners will be cut when it comes down to the bottom line vs nature.
This extra burden of proof required to come clean has hit the fish farming really hard… and you are nowhere close to satisfying the public’s belief threshold right now that you are what you claim you are.