Canadian Vivian Krause, consultant and nutrition specialist, worked in the British Columbia aquaculture industry during the period 2002-03.
Then she unearthed a $560,000 transaction for an anti-farmed salmon campaign. She did some digging, and the tracks led to David Suzuki. Suzuki is the country’s best-known environmentalist and has also been named the country’s most credible person. Her work revealed how Suzuki, and other activists, were funded.
This work laid the foundation for the report: “The demarketing of farmed salmon: Who funds it and why it matters”.
The backdrop was a sharp fall in value for wild Alaska salmon. The fish industry in Alaska had disappeared and fingered foreign salmon farmers as the biggest competitor. But instead of working to attack a fish farm, they found it more effective to get third parties to attack them, preferably environmentalists or news commentators.
The work has paid off. From 2002 the value of Alaska salmon has quadrupled.
“There have been some negative press reports. You may not have seen it in Norway, but there has been a lot,” said Krause, adding: “We have 80,000 bears on the Canadian west coast, so we need a lot of wild salmon.”
Attack the competitors
“Demarketing is the opposite of marketing,” she explains. “Get consumers away from the products, most often the competitors. For farmed salmon one can focus on dyes, poison, pollution or mortality from the lice.”
Krause’s work revealed that the negative media coverage was mostly in the US, not in Canada. The USA market is one of the world’s largest markets for both wild and farmed salmon.
“I’ve tracked 112 payments of an average of $294,000. Most of them come from three major donors and foundations: Moore, Pew and Packard. Everyone operates out of one umbrella organization, The Consultative Group on Biological Diversity,” she explains.
The David & Lucille Packard Foundation was set up by Hewlett Packard’s founders.
“One of the crown jewels of Packard is The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which distributes guides for what to eat and what you should not eat, including farmed salmon. It is worth noting that Australian and New Zealand salmon is on the list of what you should eat, probably because they do not know that these ones are also farmed. While they recommend avoiding farmed salmon, they have Canadian wild salmon on the menu.”
“In the United States, 95 percent of the wild salmon is from Alaska. A third of these fish are born in a bucket – on hatcheries,” she explains.
Packard has invested about ten million dollars a year in the past ten years. Some of the money goes to the Marine Stewartship Council.
Kill the industry
The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation is funded by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of another US IT giant, Intel.
“They are open about it: They will kill the farming industry or take it on land. They fund 50 different environmental groups, contributing $ 160 million since 2003,” says Krause.
The Pew Charitable Trust was established by one of the founders of the oil company Sun Oil. Pew supported the funding of the famous Science article in 2004, which suggested that it was carcinogenic to eat salmon.
“They deposit ten million dollars annually in Canada. We do not know where the money goes, since they have changed the reporting; it is given as grants. They now have more than 200 employees,” she explains.
“These three organizations are the drivers behind the resistance to Canadian salmon farming. They are all American.”
Exposing the claims
“We have had some success against these by exposing them in the media. Why is this important? Because salmon is one of the products we should eat more of, not less. The average American eats two pounds (one kilogram) of salmon each year, against 200 pounds (100 kilogram) of meat. If you eat salmon once a week, the chance of a heart attack is halved,” she says. She adds that this could reduce national health expenditures.
“An example of demarketing is the false claim that women should not eat salmon,” says Krause, and refers to an article in Norwegian newsapaper VG from summer 2014, which reported that pregnant women should not eat salmon.
“The case went around the world,” she said, referring to several press releases in the Canadian and American press.
“We need environmentalists and pression groups, but they must deal with and present accurate information,” she emphasizes, and brings the following challenge to Norwegian aquaculture: “Look after your own reputation, or someone else will do it.”