Net-cage salmon farming is bad for the environment and people know it. This is why the salmon farming industry must hire public relations firms like Hill & Knowlton (infamously known for helping the tobacco industry promote smoking) and more recently DDB (who helped launch a 1.5 million dollar campaign in early 2011) – all in an attempt to cast farmed salmon in a positive light. But what may be even worse than this corporate spin is that the Canadian government is also in on the game. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is working to enhance the public image of net-cage farmed salmon as well, despite the fact that this industry is implicated in harm to the marine ecosystems DFO is obligated to protect.
Not only do these promotional activities take time and resources away from DFO’s primary conservation mandate, they are an exercise in futility and therefore an abhorrent waste of our taxpayer dollars. A 2008 internal communications document (DFO Aquaculture Communications Overview 2008-07-07) entered into evidence at the Cohen Inquiry hearings, reveals DFO’s struggle to, as they put it, “strengthen public confidence” in aquaculture. DFO employees were interviewed by a communications consultant hired by the Department. Here are a few statements from DFO staff as quoted in the document:
- “Aquaculture has very little social license and it continues to decline.”
- “No one believes the sustainable development message we are trying to communicate on the west coast (including staff).”
- “We are losing the communications battle.”
- “(A portion of the public hasn’t) formed an opinion one way or another however they are one or two ENGO communication reports away from changing their minds.”
So why is DFO, and the net-cage salmon farming industry for that matter, losing the PR battle? Because no matter how many “sustainability” strategies DFO comes up with or how many satirical commercials the industry puts out, net-cage salmon farming is simply not, and never will be sustainable. The public will therefore never get on board with this practice.
Our government must stop wasting time and taxpayers’ money attempting to ‘message’ net-cage farmed salmon into public acceptance and instead take real action to create a modern, more sustainable salmon aquaculture industry. Open net-cage salmon farms must be removed from wild fish habitats and transitioned to closed containment technology now.