Fishy ads

A couple arrives home. They enter through the front door. As they do, the camera becomes their eyes. It pans the living room. The place looks as if it’s had a vigorous shake from an earthquake, but telltale beer bottles betray the fact that the room has been the site of some serious partying. The camera moves to a wasted adolescent sprawled on the couch.

“The cat did it,” the kid says.

The camera zooms in on a ginger tabby, resting comfortably on a pillow set on a high shelf. The sound of soft purring is dubbed in.

Camera two captures the action from outside the house. The front door is flung open. Dad  hurls the orange cat out on to the pavement. It  yowls in protest.

“What if we believed everything were told,” an announcer’s dulcet voice intones, “Like all the things we are told about fish farming.”

This ad reminded me of another, brought to us by the concerned folks at Advertising Standards Canada. In this one, another concerned dad enters his teenaged daughter’s room to find her climbing out her bedroom window into the night. He freezes. She freezes. As she does a banner pinned to the wall unfurls displaying the message, “ I was going to the library.”

On cue, a bearded man, carrying a keyboard and wearing leotards, prances into the room. He presses a button on the instrument that activates a rhythmic groove, whereupon similarly clad harlequins tumble in behind him. As they perform a cumbersome ballet for the father, the message, “Dressing it up doesn’t make it true,” appears across the screen.

The fish farming ad pleases me because it suggests that the truth about that foul industry is penetrating the public consciousness, and that fish farmers and their apologists are worried about the fact that people are turning away from their products at the grocery stores and at restaurants in increasing numbers.

The ad also caused me to reflect on what I’d heard about fish farming.

Finlay and I met some German anglers at Shames River 20 years ago. They told us that Norway had lost some of their premier salmon rivers to disease caused by fish farms. I believed them. When the Age of Cyberspace dawned, and I was able to surf the World Wide Web to check the German’s claim, I discovered it was true.

Around the same time, an earnest young guide who worked the waters of this province’s central coast told me that the sites abandoned by the first wave of fish farmers who went into business on this coast then went broke were dead zones that never produced fish for his clients. I believed him unhesitatingly. Why wouldn’t I. What would he have to gain by making such a thing up? He could have had it wrong though.

Some years later, I read a number of articles in British newspapers that suggested my guide friend had it right. These pieces claimed that fish farms excreted more waste than a small northern town. Their authors described how that effluent sank to the ocean floor smothering the myriad life forms there. Even though they came from different sources, I could have discounted those pieces, but a video of the ocean floor underneath Scottish farms, shot by by divers for oceanographers, presented pretty convincing evidence that the British journalist had trodden solid ground.

Then I read that Atlantic salmon imported to BC to be farmed were escaping their net pens in ocean storms. This seemed plausible to me, so I believed it. In every case I’ve encountered, exotic species spell trouble for native species. Despite the  fish farming industry’s denials, I assumed this could be a problem. I phoned my friend, Mike Lough, a fisheries biologist working on Vancouver Island. Mike told me that Atlantic salmon were turning up on the VanIsle streams. At the time I phoned him, more exotic Atlantics had been caught on some streams than native steelhead. This worried Mike. If they start reproducing in the wild, Mike said, it could present a big problem for wild Pacific salmonids.

“Do you think they are?” I asked.

“ Well,” said Mike, “ if they are anything like every other living organism in the biosphere, the odds are good that they are.”

I believe Mike, just as I believe Alexandra Morton when she says seas made lousy by farm fish are wiping out pink salmon juveniles. Neither Mike nor Alexandra have any reason to promote falsehoods, and both of them are experts.

I’ve believed everything I’ve heard about fish farming, and all of it has turned out to be true.

I’m going to end here. The cat’s meowing at the door. I believe she wants out.

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