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Media Hype and Vested Claims Need Addressing

BRITISH COLUMBIA - The media must understand the facts before it slates coastal industries such as the salmon farming. This was the message from Gerry Furney, mayor of Port McNeill, speaking at the ninth Annual Positive Aquaculture Awareness Awards in Campbell River.

In his speech, reported in Canada's West Coaster, he said that BC's salmon farming industry was being covered by a dark media cloud. The anti-aquaculture campaign had fostered favour with the press by using exaggerated claims about the safety of farmed fish, the sector's impact on the environment and its effects on the health of wild fish stocks.

"Many media people have been seduced into an anti-industry attitude. There are, sadly, only a few media people that understand just how our economy works," he said.

Solid Ethics

BC's 30 year old aquaculture sector was founded on sensible practice, expertise and good husbandry. It was subject to government regulations and controls and implemented strict protocols, said Mr Furney. It had become an integral part of the regions economy and thousands of citizens depended on it for jobs, security and a way of life. Unfortunately, those who criticise the business do not live in the area and have little to lose from is demise.

"I’m surprised that some of our brightest media people are not researching the motives behind the campaigns. When multi-millions of dollars are being spent to beat up on the people of the coastal communities and on the healthiest food available, one wonders who or what is behind it? Is there a writer or researcher out there who could pin this down?" he questioned.

Mr Furney noted that many of those funding 'de-marking' campaigns had vested interests in large foundations - some of which were pumping money into the semi-wild salmon industry in Alaska. Such organisations have spent millions of dollars denigrating BC farmed salmon and that had to be questioned, he said.

Exaggerated

Other elements of his speech targeted exaggerated claims about contaminants in farmed fish, to discourage consumption of a food which was rich Omega 3 fatty acids. He also highlighted the Sea Lice issue, and said that critics were using every tool available to try to lay the blame on aquaculture for its very existence.

He commented a recent review that predicted that the pink salmon runs in the Broughton area would be extinct within four years. He said the Pacific Salmon Forum, which, was one of the funders for the research, did not support the predictions. The Forum also noted that all the field researchers actually noted that over 80 per cent of the wild salmon smolts migrating out of the Broughton inlets in the spring of 2007 had no lice on them whatsoever.

Also pink runs in Broughton have historically fluctuated from year to year and was unfair to blame these fluctuations on salmon farming. Factors such as salinity changes in estuary waters, predation, harvesting levels and spawning success also had an impact.

Worthy of note is the fact that some of the largest runs of pinks have occurred over the years since salmon farming began.

"As the mayor of a resource-based community for many years, I have become very much aware of the challenges that confront us. I greatly appreciate the work that you do in this very important and promising industry for our province," said Mr Furney. "I urge you to stand up and be counted where, how and when it matters. The bad guys will win if you don’t speak out, individually and collectively."

To view the speech in full click here.

Ellen Hardy

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