Jake and I walked down to the bottom of our property on Monday to look at the river. In a corner of the lower field, a stack of hay bales has been sitting since last fall with a tarp thrown over the top and some pallets holding down the tarp. Most of the pallets we use around the farm have no branding on them, but a stamped word on this one caught my eye.
Curious, I googled Skretting when I got back to my desk. Turns out it’s a Norwegian company that touts itself as “a global leader in providing innovative and sustainable nutritional solutions for the aquaculture industry.” According to its website, it is sponsoring the AquaVision 2014 conference in Stavanger, Norway, this June—with Bob Geldof as the keynote speaker.
What is Bob Geldof—the knighted Boomtown Rat who 30 years ago focused global attention on famine in Ethiopia—doing on the
industry enemy side of the farm fish battle?
Fish farms on the BC coast are polluting our waters, decimating our wild salmon stocks, and threatening the health, well-being, and way of life of First Nations. How could the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated rock musician and political activist be on board with that?
According to Viggo Halseth, COO of Nutreco Aquaculture, which owns both Skretting and Marine Harvest*,
“Sir Bob Geldof is one of the world’s highest ranked and most authoritative corporate speakers…. His presentations are highly provocative, uplifting and inspiring.”
Since when is Geldof a corporate speaker?
By the way, someone should tell Halseth it’s bad form to call Geldof Sir Bob. Yes, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1986. That means he gets to use the letters KBE after his name, but the Dublin-born Irishman is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm, so he’s not entitled to be called Sir Bob.
Even if he is New Statesman’s third-ranked hero of our times, right after Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela (and slightly ahead of Margaret Thatcher).
Don’t get me wrong. I was as impressed as anyone when Geldof mobilized the music industry to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to eradicate poverty in Africa. In 1985, I was an idealistic 23-year-old Katimavik alumnus when Live Aid riveted the world’s attention to Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia simultaneously. I was one of the estimated 1.9 billion viewers who swayed and sang along with Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, and the other members of USA for Africa when they closed the mega-event with “We Are the World”—a song that stirs me even today.
But I’m older now, and I can’t help but notice that poverty is still a huge problem, not only in Africa. It’s increasing at a staggering rate in many places around the globe while both the CEOs of global corporations like Nutreco and the musicians who were part of Live Aid enjoy staggering wealth.
Call me naïve. Before Monday, I thought fish farms on the BC coast were all about supplying the North American and European markets. I had no idea the aquaculture industry was selling itself as a way to feed 9 billion people in a sustainable way or that Kofi Annan sees fish farming as a solution to world hunger. Annan was the keynote speaker at the last AquaVision conference in 2012, where he told the industry:“I do not ask you to change direction, but I ask you to accelerate progress. We need to work together if we are to overcome world hunger.”
Alexandra Morton and others who are working tirelessly to protect the BC coast and our wild salmon stocks are asking the industry to change direction. In fact, Morton has taken the government of Canada to court in an attempt to prevent the transfer of Norwegian-owned diseased farmed Atlantic salmon into BC waters shared with wild fish. She writes:
“The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has given the Norwegian salmon farming industry the green light to expand in British Columbia marine waters. Days later one of these companies* was listed on the New York Stock Exchange announcing big plans to expand. This industry never shovels its manure — waste, viruses, drugs flow directly into the wild salmon migration routes of BC. This is a dirty industry that does not belong in our increasingly polluted oceans.
Each one of these salmon farms is given a federal licence to use Atlantic salmon infected with viruses. This contravenes the Fisheries Act, and I am in court with Ecojustice to stop this dirty practice.”
Morton is petitioning BC’s premier on change.org as follows:
Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, Premier, BC
If you care about wild salmon, please sign the petition here and share it with your networks.
If you’re not sure why you should care about wild salmon and the fish farm debate, Twyla Roscovich’s documentary Salmon Confidential provides what Ian Bailey of The Globe and Mail calls a “forceful primer” on the issue. If you haven’t already seen it, you can view Salmon Confidential here.
Bob Geldof, have you seen it? Oh wait. I guess you stand to make a lot more money uplifting and inspiring the global fish farming industry than worrying about the plight of wild fish and First Nations in BC. I’ve heard your public speaking fee starts at £50,000. How much is Nutreco paying you?
Don’t misunderstand. I support the idea of aquaculture as a solution to world hunger. But I’m not naïve enough to think it’s what motivates Nutreco and the rest of the aquaculture industry. Nor do I think Bob Geldof is that naïve.
The powerful Norwegian lobby that is driving the expansion of fish farms on the BC coast is motivated by profit, not altruism. And our federal and provincial governments either don’t care or don’t have the clout to restrict the global corporations who are being given free passes to pollute our waters and destroy our irreplaceable wild salmon stocks.
It’s enough to make a girl hate Mondays.