Capitalism and an Impending Wild Salmon Apocalypse

(by Kim Petersen) - That sea lice from salmon farming pens imperil wild salmon populations is known.1 A recent article in the respected academic journal Science has confirmed these earlier reports. 2 But more ominously, the article authors warn that the sea lice threaten a “99% collapse in pink salmon population … expected in four salmon generations.”




The culprit is corporate salmon farming whose pens provide a platform where the sea lice can proliferate. The wild juvenile pink salmon that venture to the sea past these salmon farms are at risk of picking up sea lice.


"If nothing changes, we are going to lose these fish."

– Martin Krkošek, lead author on Science

paper warning of impending collapse

of wild pink salmon population


Lead author Martin Krkošek and his colleagues concluded:

  • Pink salmon populations known to be experiencing sea lice
    infestations were depressed and declining whereas the other populations
    remained productive.

  • If sea lice infestations continue,
    affected pink salmon populations will collapse by 99 percent in a
    further two salmon generations (four years).

  • The sea lice typically killed over 80 percent of the fish in each salmon run. 3

isolate sea lice from other factors affecting pink salmon populations,
the researchers used data from the Canada’s Department of Fisheries and
Oceans that enumerate adult salmon returning to BC rivers each year
since 1970. The data allowed researchers to compare populations of pink
salmon exposed and unexposed to salmon farms.

In a press
release, Krkošek and his co-authors calculated that sea lice have
killed more than 80 percent of the annual pink salmon (Onchorhynchus
gorbuscha) returns to British Columbia’s Broughton Archipelago.

authors’ results indicate wild salmon populations are endangered and
suggest that large-scale aquaculture should be carefully considered for
its effect on wild species.

The Broughton Archipelago has an
“80-kilometer gauntlet of fish farms” that juvenile salmon must
negotiate on the way to the open ocean. Study co-author Alexandra
Morton, director of the Salmon Coast Field Station, located in the
Broughton said, “Salmon farming breaks a natural law. In the natural
system, the youngest salmon are not exposed to sea lice because the
adult salmon that carry the parasite are offshore. But fish farms cause
a deadly collision between the vulnerable young salmon and sea lice.
They are not equipped to survive this, and they don’t.”

cause, according to Krkošek is simple: “In the Broughton there are just
too many farmed fish in the water. If there were only one salmon farm
this problem probably wouldn’t exist.”

What to do? Mark Lewis, a
mathematical ecologist at the University of Alberta, identified two
possible solutions: closed containment and moving farms away from

Daniel Pauly, Director of the University of British
Columbia’s Fisheries Centre, put it in perspective: “If industry says
it’s too expensive to move the fish farms or contain them, they are
actually saying the natural system must continue to pay the price. They
are, as economists would say, externalizing the costs of fish farming
on the wild salmon and the public.”

Corporate-Government Collusion in Collapse of Pink Salmon

BC Liberal [sic] Party has been supporting an increase in the number of
salmon farm operations. 5 The salmon farming industry has reaped a
whirlwind of criticism. Corporate salmon farming in BC is Norwegian
dominated, and a section of the Norwegian media jumped to a
nationalistic defense of the Norwegian concerns.

Overall, the
Norwegian media reaction was mixed. Norway’s largest media house, NRK,
headlined with “Norwegian company wipes out wild salmon.”Industry
media portrayed the matter differently. Næringslivsavisen ran: “Attack
on Norwegian salmon giants.” Dagens Næringsliv’s headline was:
“Frontal attack against Norwegian salmon giants.” 8 They attacked the
prestigious Science journal and denounced the scientists as
“activists.” Morton was labeled an “environmentalist,” as was Krkošek.
One wonders about what is so objectionable about being an
“environmentalist.” Nonetheless, one would hardly hurl the
“environmentalist” label at the corporatists.

Marine Harvest
Canada CEO Vincent Erenst complained the Science article authors are
not “independent researchers.” 9 Erenst charged that the scientists are
engaged in “agenda research,” which is “not research.” He further
asserted, “These researchers have made up their minds they would arrive
at a predetermined result, then have ruled out everything that
conflicts with their hypothesis.” Nowhere in the interview is evidence
provided to back up his allegations.

Ian Roberts, Marine
Harvest Canada’s communications director, chimed in, “I believe people
are starting to get a little weary of this type of Doomsday prophecy.”9
These are sly digs bordering on ad hominem that do not address the
scientists’ research results and conclusions.

The Pacific Salmon
Forum responded, “The extent of the impact of salmon farming on wild
salmon is still not fully understood, nor is there a consensus of
scientists on the best ways to minimize that impact.”


This is an
unsurprisingly wishy-washy statement coming from a panel of seven
individuals appointed by the BC government, whose ruling Liberal Party
is a major recipient of political contributions from the salmon-farming
industry. 10  Presumably, the Pacific Salmon Forum holds that a looming
99 percent eradication of existing wild salmon stocks is worth the risk?

Ellen Walling, executive director of the British Columbia Salmon
Farmers Association (BCSFA) stated that Krkošek and Morton are “well
known for their hard line views about salmon farming.” 10  One wonders if
this is similar to the hard-line rejection of environmental concerns by
the salmon-farming industry lobby.

The BCSFA once claimed it would “like to work in partnership to ensure wild salmon are protected.”11

criticizes the salmon farming industry for lacking the competence to
realize the problem. “We have tried to co-operate for years, but it has
been difficult. The salmon farming industry does not want to talk with
environmentalists at all, and they are skeptical of the science around
this,” he said.12

Nevertheless, when criticisms were directed to the study, Krkosek compellingly refuted the criticisms.13

what is at stake, Morton called for public input: “Wild salmon are
enormously important to the ecosystem, economies, and culture. Now it
is clear they are disappearing in place of an industry. People need to
know this and make a decision what they want: industry-produced salmon
or wild salmon.”






  1. Alexandra Morton, “Dying of Salmon
    Farming” in Stephen Hume, Alexandra Morton, Betty C. Keller, Rosella M. Leslie,
    Otto Langer, and Don Staniford, A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon
    (Harbour Publishing, 2004), 199-237. See review. #

  2. Martin Krkošek, Jennifer S. Ford,
    Alexandra Morton, Subhash Lele, Ransom A. Myers, Mark A. Lewis, “Declining Wild
    Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon,” Science,
    14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1772 – 1775. For a summary of the
    Science paper, see Martin Krkošek, Jennifer S. Ford, Alexandra Morton, Subhash
    Lele, Ransom A. Myers, Mark A. Lewis “Aquaculture
    Impacts on Wild Salmon
    ,” Lensfest Ocean Program Research Series,
    December 2007. #

  3. Martin Krkošek, Jennifer S. Ford,
    Alexandra Morton, Subhash Lele, Ransom A. Myers, Mark A. Lewis “Aquaculture
    Impacts on Wild Salmon
    ,” Lensfest Ocean Program Research Series,
    December 2007. #

  4. Press release, “Fish
    Farms Drive Wild Salmon Populations Toward Extinction: Experts raise serious
    concerns about the expansion of industrial fish farming
    ,” University of
    Alberta Compass, 13 December 2007. #

  5. Joel Connelly, “In The
    Northwest: Opponents are raising a stink over B.C. fish farms
    ,” Seattle
    , 21 February 2003. #

  6. Eva Aalberg Undheim, “Norske selskap utryddar
    ,” nrk nyheter, 14 December 2007. #

  7. Angriper norske
    laksegiganter: Anklages for å utrydde villaksen i Canada
    14 December 2007. #

  8. Bjørn Erik Dahl and Agnar Berg, “Frontalangrep
    mot norske laksegiganter
    ,”, 14 December 2007.

    From an industry that hires disinformation specialists, the industry
    offensive was predictable.
    Kim Petersen, “Farmageddon
    and the Spin-doctors
    ,” Dissident Voice, 29 March 2003. For a recap
    of industry complaints, see Kim Petersen, “Eating Profit:
    Frustrations of the Salmon-Farming Industry
    ,” Dissident Voice, 21
    April 2005. #

  9. Bjørn Erik Dahl and Agnar Berg, “Marine
    Harvest Canada boss attacks Science article writers,” Intrafish, 18
    December 2007. # # #

  10. Tom Barrett, “Fish
    Farm Documents Show Politics Trump Science, Say Critics
    ,” The Tyee,
    12 May 2005. #

  11. Mary Ellen Walling, “Wild versus
    farmed Salmon: Emotion Versus Facts
    ,” British Columbia Salmon Farmers
    Association, 15 April 2004. NB, the link no longer appears to carry the entirety
    of the article. #

  12. Translated from Eva Aalberg Undheim, “Norske selskap utryddar
    ,” nrk nyheter, 14 December 2007. “Vi har forsøkt å få
    til eit samarbeid i årevis, men det har vore vanskeleg. Oppdrettsnæringa vil
    ikkje snakke med miljøvernarar i det heile teke, og dei er skeptiske til
    vitskapen kring dette, seier han
    .” #

  13. Martin Krkosek, “Public
    Critiques and Responses
    .” #



Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be
reached at: Read other articles
by Kim


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