The verdict in the ongoing salmon trial may have unprecedented ripple effects.
The articles have been well-read. Daily articles from the trial between the 25 Western Norway fish farmers and the government are addictive. Readers from all over, including fish farmers, environmentalists, exporters, scientists, students, management and politicians, are gripped.
Although the plaintiffs’ legal team emphasised that the trial does not deal with the traffic light system as such, that is exactly what it does.
For this is not primarily about a dispute between the government and 25 fish farmers, located between Nordhordland and Stad, which has reportedly been cheated out of sales revenues.
No, this is about the Institute of Marine Research (IMR)’s credibility.
Plenty of professional and political prestige has been added to the Traffic Light model. IMR researchers have coveted the responsibility and role of advisor and architect of the country’s salmon management.
This is the test. It is a serious and important job to regulate the country’s largest export industry after the oil industry.
IMR is playing on home turf. They are the world leader in salmon research. No one knows wind and current conditions along the coast like them. No one has delved deeper into the mysteries of sea lice.
Therefore, it is essential that the research and factual basis holds water in the face of the first, in what could be a series of litigation lawsuits. The government relies on the experts. They can’t do anything else. No one else can take that job.
IMR, on the other hand, must convince. They need to clear away the counterarguments. There should be no doubt that the factual basis, research methods, data interpretation, analyses, and IMR’s advanced mathematical models provide the most accurate picture of the situation.
A credible and good map. A solid management tool for both wild and farmed salmon management.
The integrity must be immaculate. They can’t afford procedural errors, slips or misunderstandings.
They have to win the trial clearly. By a good margin.
However, if they do not win clearly or even lose the litigation, and with that loss of several tens of millions of euros, then the entire government’s professional basis for farming and wild salmon management will crack. The consequences can be very far-reaching.
At the end of this week, IMR’s well-regarded investigators will take the witness stand in the District Court. Then we will be able to get a clearer picture of where the wind is blowing in the ongoing courtroom thriller.