Feature image for Salmon article

Corruption And Salmon Farming… A Norwegian Conspiracy

The detrimental effect of salmon farming and the unfamiliar idleness of the Norwegian government.

The ugly reality – photo source

Many will recognise Norway for it’s position as a world leader in combatting climate change – and for good reason. Within their bow of sustainability, as much as 98% of the electricity produced in Norway comes from renewable sources, they are per capita among the lowest CO2 emitters globally and too top it all off, the nation’s exceptionally impressive Sovereign Wealth Fund annexed all non-renewable energy producers from their portfolio.

They are comprehensively a net positive when it comes to the fight against climate change.

Despite this, the nation’s wealth ironically comes off the back of oil export and the continued practice of barbaric whale hunting. The populous of Norway are extremely liberal and conscious about their environment.

This is manifest by the generalised interactions you experience with the people. Norwegians are among the best recyclers in the world, they claim to recycle 97% of all plastic bottles used. Norwegians are very aware of how their actions affect the global ecosystem.

So with all this in mind the question begs… Why do these same people passively allow the objectively unsustainable practices of farmed fishing?

Salmon Farming On The Westfjords

Norway is the definitive producer of salmon worldwide. They independently boast both the planets largest wild and farmed salmon yield.

To put the industry into perspective, in 2018 the value of salmon produced in Norway was 64.6 billion Norwegian Krone (NOK), just a tick over $7 billion USD.

A significant industry. Absolutely.

However, it is good to note just for context that this pivotal Norwegian industry is a distant second to the countries largest export, Statoil’s beautifully slick black gold which in 2018, represented 535 billion NOK and over 50% of countries exports.

The Costly Salmon Business

64 billion NOK equates to a lot of little hungry fish mouths and to feed. These hungry boys and girls source up to as much as 75% of the feed from soy import from Brazil (which presents its own environmental problem).

As these salmon grow and grow their bodies grow, they pack together with increasingly higher density. They are enclosed in ultra dense net-pens which do not mirror the wild environment and cause several negative externalities as consequence.

Not only does this high stress environment affect the taste and quality of the salmon – thereby distorting the market for consumers – but such density creates sea lice and although the farmed salmon are contained to a net, the water in which they swim is not. Therefore, the highly disruptive sea lice not only decimate the farmed population in which they are spawned, but are being contaminated across to the wild population.

Sea lice affects swimming performance, growth and behaviour, which means, less able, underdeveloped, sick and distasteful fish. So you can see how detrimental of an externality this is when the contagion is proliferated amongst both the domesticated and wild population of salmon.

What we are seeing is an ever declining quality of the farmed salmon that is not conversely being met by the steady quality you expect from the wild salmon. The sea lice are polluting the wild population, making the superior wild variety of salmon both less available and of less quality.

Farmed Contra Wild

This really is a question of cost. Wild salmon the world over are significantly more expensive than their farmed comrades, but the sea lice dilemma caused by unsustainable farming methods are rapidly reaping havoc to wild populations – therefore reducing their quality.

As long as farmed methods are producing cheaper salmon, the consumer cannot afford the ethical decision to purchase the wild variety – so how can we bow this environmental contamination if consumers will continue to buy salmon according to the lowest price point?

How can we effect change to the industry?

Because if there is no intervention soon, we run the risk of destroying the superior varieties of Norwegian salmon for good.

Farmed Vs Wild Salmon – photo source

Where Is The Conspiracy?

This question speaks to the thesis of this article.

How is it, in a country leading the movement in environmental sustainability, could they allow this to happen in their own backyard?

Why has a routinely interventionist and prosperous government not stuck their head – in typical overreaching fashion – right into the middle into this issue?

As you would expect, the answer is; The intrusion and intervention of grubby paws from powerfully vested interests – corruption.

It seems to be financially incentivised corruption, and by my own estimation and opinion, one that also ties closely with a proud fishing culture within Norway – adding an extra spice for non intervention.

By this I mean to say it would be easier to regulate the car manufacturing industry in Norway than the nation’s proud fishing industry – all else being equal.

There is a certain homely connotation that Norwegians derive from salmon. Salmon farming and fishing is an industry Norwegians hold themselves accountable for, and identify is an industry they proudly rest their historic roots with.

Salmon Mafia

The corruption lies – with sticky fingers and a fishy scent – firmly on the shoulders of the Oppdretternes Maktgarn – The Salmon Farmers’ Mafia.

These are a number of individuals who essentially have control over the entire industry from a regulatory perspective. Most notably are the members who formulate the Ministry of Fisheries, a government body responsible for, among other things, regulating sustainable farming methods.

The accusation is that because these are all former members of the industry with many ties still firmly embedded within, that they can not be impartial to make detrimental decisions and policy that would severely effect the industry.

For at this stage, without the existence of clean and sustainable innovation which could clean up this mess, the only sustainable thing we can do is significantly decrease production and impose costly regulations that would enforce farmers to adopt cleaner and more sustainable practices.

This would, quite evidently, disrupt the industry significantly. And there, in plain sight lies the oldest motivation for corruption in the book.

The people at the top stand to line their pockets with cold hard NOK if they protect the instability, and those same people stand to lose that same NOK should they intervene according what is required.

Sea Lice Is Only The Surface

Sea lice is the most dramatic of negative externalities unsustainable fishing farms pose, but certainly not traveling solo, for they have company.

  • Millions of farmed salmon every year escape the nets and go on to interfere with wild populations.
  • Unnatural quantities of faeces is dispersed throughout the delicate fjord ecosystem.
  • The ethical abuse of these salmon. They are downtown Tokyo level too densely populated.
  • Treated poorly, and cancer ridden.
  • The prevalence of fisheries is decimating local crustacean populations.
  • The final product consumed by you, me and your mate is toxic.

I was afraid of misrepresenting just how bad the issue really is, because like I said at the beginning, Norway is among the worlds most responsible governments and its citizens amongst the worlds most educated and environmentally conscious.

I wanted to level my own scepticism and determine just how bad this issue really was, and then found this. This offers a both a counter argument and the ‘truth’ to all the accusations I have presented here, and I admit I was quite swayed. However, once I started reading their ‘about me’, and going a little bit deeper into what this site was about it quickly became clear that if they were not a Norwegian government site directly, rather they had their own biased agenda. I am left with this conclusion.

It is hypocritical of the Norwegian government to present to the world on one hand the facade and actions of an environmentally conscious and sustainable nation. Then on the other hand, sit quietly and idly by while your second largest industry decimates a unique and prosperous ecosystem in your own backyard.

Ultimately the consumer should be the one making the choice to not buy salmon. But given just how prevalent Norwegian salmon is throughout Europe, this action alone would not be enough. To truly make farmed fishing sustainable there needs to be the big government intervention that is usually typical and expected of Norway. After all this is one of the worlds most beautiful, happy and prosperous countries, and we don’t want any of that to change.

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