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Newspaper ad targets Safeway shoppers

CANADA - A Vancouver-based organisation has taken out a half-page advert in The New York Times urging US consumers to ask their Safeway stores to stop stocking British Columbia farmed salmon.

Dead seals, sea lice and salmon faeces are all featured in the $30,000 (US) advert that mimics Safeway's "Ingredients for life" campaign, but instead reads "Ingredients for extinction?"

"About 85 per cent of the farmed fish produced in BC go to the American marketplace, so we thought The New York Times would be a very good venue for reaching US consumers," said Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society, one of the nine groups that form Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR), the group responsible for the advertisement.

Ms. Stewart said the advertisement isn't intended to suggest consumers boycott Safeway, but rather to have them approach their local store to ask the manager to stop stocking farmed salmon until practices become more sustainable.

"It's not an ad trying to embarrass Safeway, it's an ad trying to tell consumers to go visit the chain and talk to the manager," said Dom Repta, aquaculture markets campaigner for Friends of Clayoquot Sound, another CAAR group. Mr. Repta said Safeway told them farmed salmon make up 50 per cent of its seafood sales.

Safeway Canada spokeswoman Betty Kellsey said: "We do sell farmed salmon in our store operation. It is a product our consumers are looking for and asking for, but at the same time when the season permits, we always offer a choice between farm and fresh salmon in our stores. It is a product that is government regulated and it is legal to sell. We're not entirely sure why this organisation is targeting Safeway because this is a product that is sold at most of our competitors throughout North America.

A British Columbia Legislature committee has recommended that fish farms be moved to ocean-based close-containment systems, something that hasn't been invented yet. Existing closed-containment salmon farming systems use gigantic land-based tanks that require enormous amounts of energy and have proved to be a failure in the past, said Mary Ellen Walling, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers' Association.

"Currently, closed containment technology is not being used anywhere in the world in any kind of a commercially successful operation. A number of them have been piloted and have failed miserably," she said. She said there were also concerns for fish welfare in tanks, as the fish are kept tightly packed and constantly moving. Ms. Walling, doubts the ad will have much of an impact.