The Farmed Salmon Debate - Economic Terrorism?

Warren Key of Gippsland Aquaculture Industry Network (GAIN)reviews the recent dioxin in farmed salmon issue
March 1, 2004

In my role as the editor of the Growfish Aquaculture Portal, I have been closely following the unfolding events concerning the levels of PCB's and Dioxins allegedly present in Farmed Salmon.

This issue reared it's ugly head back on January 9th 2004 as a result of a study report published in the formerly respected Science Magazine. The report entitled "Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon"

was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and for those interested in reading what the fuss is all about a copy is available at:

The study, assessed levels of health-related contaminants in farm raised salmon compared to their wild counterparts. The report was authored by six U.S. and Canadian researchers representing fields from toxicology to biology to statistics.

Due to copyright restrictions we are unable to publish information from the Science Magazine website, however those interested in further reading can visit the website at and register for free access to some of the materials available including the abstracts and study report supporting document. Search for "Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon" to locate the information.

The fallout from this report has had an enormous impact on the industry both economically and socially. It has created negativity towards a healthy food source, hardship for industry participants, including the employees and families of many companies, the retail sector and every facet of the industry in between. The overall cost to the industry is almost incalculable and will continue to mount as the industry works towards restoring consumer confidence.

The impacts of this report have been felt globally. In some areas it has been reported that retail sales of salmon products have fallen by as much as 70% and industry recovery is going to take considerable time.

The methodologies used in the study itself are arguably questionable from a scientific perspective and the study now appears to be a politically motivated stunt by activists with the objective of destroying the industry through political means and scare tactics.

Science Magazine was perhaps the journal of choice for publication of the report due to it's respectability and reputation. International Public Relations organisation Gavin Anderson & Co carefully orchestrated the press release and ensured that the release of the report gained world wide exposure. It is somewhat concerning that Science Magazine allowed the report to be published when there were so many unsubstantiated facts and that the report was funded by an organisation with an obvious political and environmental agenda against the industry.

It must be extremely embarrassing for the management of Science Magazine to be so blatantly manipulated by another organisation who has used them as a tool for furthering their own agenda.

In support of Science Magazine I am certain that as with any professional publication there is an article submission and approvals process. In this instance it would appear that possible manipulative pressures have been applied and circumstance has made Science Magazine a victim by publishing the original information in good faith. Science Magazine has in the past been widely recognised and highly regarded for publishing the latest leading edge technology and research study information.

see previously published article:

Activists use science to scare us -

In a letter to the editor of Science Magazine recently published on the BC Salmon Farmers Association website the author has highlighted numerous inconsistencies in the report and also berated Science Magazine for it's irresponsible publishing of a report containing so many baseless accusations and unsubstantiated scientific evidence.

Extract from letter:

The authors appear to have an agenda beyond the reporting of scientific information and their agenda in part appears to be demonizing farmed salmon.

This is not science. This is politics. This type of report belongs in a political publication where yellow journalism is considered and art. It does not belong in a scientific publication where yellow journalism is usually considered a scourge. Perhaps the next time these authors try to use your publication for their political agenda you will be more careful.

The complete letter can be read at

In response to the release of the report, the Global Aquaculture Alliance produced a media release containing information on PCBs and Dioxins, Toxic Equivalency Factors, International Standards, Regulation and the Health Benefits of Salmon. Interestingly, the GAA media release highlighted that:

"The researchers arrived at their conclusion by applying U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for multiple contaminants in recreationally caught fish. Had they applied the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they would have concluded that farmed salmon are entirely safe to eat with no restriction. Had they chosen the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) or the European Commission, they would have concluded that farmed salmon can be safely consumed at least weekly."

Full Article:

In their constant fight for exposure and in attempt to further their misinformed causes through controversial means, two organisations, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Center for Environmental Health

(CEH) have filed legal notice under California's main toxics law, Proposition 65, of plans to sue the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of farmed salmon over potentially dangerous levels of cancer-causing PCBs in the fish, naming 50 defendants.

Yet another case of activist minority groups using controversial and inflammatory methods to achieve their own misguided agendas. In this case they are directly attacking anything and everyone associated with the entire production and distribution chain and in conjunction with the scare tactics adopted by Pew, consumers are also being targeted.

It seems that according to research and the opinions of every second organisation's propaganda I read I am going be exposed to a toxic chemical or some form of carcinogenic substance no matter what I do. If you want some interesting reading, do a search on Google for the phrase; "cancer causing products".

One article I read identified Chips, Fries, Bread and Cereals as containing carcinogens. Another specified wood dust. Another site, which incidentally is marketing it's own products that they claim to be toxin free, named shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, cosmetics, cleaning products, talcum powder and alcohol as potentially cancer causing.

According to an item on

"It can be said that "mammary cancer" and "carcinoma of uterus" , as representatives of female cancers, are regarded to be connected with sex habits of female." So now Sex is a definite No No as well. The same webpage also says "Career diseases have become major social problems."

This means exposure to carcinogens at the work place. I work on a computer and that has got to be bad with all that radiation bombarding me from the monitors. Maybe I should get a job as a speed hump in a car park. Nope, could catch cancer from the radiation levels in the bitumen.

So, apparently I can't wash, clean, drink beer, eat almost anything except organically grown fruit and vegetables, work anywhere, eat FISH or even have sex. Could someone please send me some organic cotton wool and a cardboard box made from natural fibres to pack myself in.

What environmental activists are failing to recognise and acknowledge is the fact that the pressures being placed upon the worlds wild catch fisheries are unsustainable in nearly every instance. Aquaculture will have to play an ever increasing role in meeting global demand due to world population growth and the decline in wild catch fishery stocks. Currently aquaculture provides over 30% of the worlds seafood products and is the only sustainable manner in which to meet the world's future seafood needs. Aquaculture will also play a significant future role in the economic and community development of both established and developing countries.

I am somewhat confused regarding the contradictory agenda's of some of these environmental groups. On one hand they cry for the protection of the worlds aquatic creatures, yet on the other they directly attack the only industry that may ultimately ensure the survival of many of these creatures including individual species.. It seems blatantly obvious to me that the amount of money and the effort that has been expended to discredit the salmon farming industry could have been used far more productively. By working with the aquaculture industry to continue research and development into environmentally friendly and economically sustainable practices, far more positive and productive outcomes could have been achieved.

I find it completely irresponsible and an outrage against future generations that the actions of the select few could lead to further diminishment of wild catch stocks by potentially turning the focus back to traditional fishing methods.

Regardless of whatever opinion anyone has regarding the future of the Aquaculture industry, or what action is taken to discredit aquaculture as a farming practice and regardless of efforts made to unbalance the economical viability of such, AQUACULTURE IS HERE TO STAY!

Why; Because we don't have a choice in the long term.

The entire issue discussed here absolutely reeks of Economic Terrorism by the Pew Charitable Trusts. This was a barely concealed stunt aimed at furthering their environmental and political agendas at the expense of thousands of individuals around the world. Based upon the methods and scare tactics used, the Pew Charitable Trusts should be held accountable in an International Court of Law for circulating false and misleading information resulting in extreme economic, financial and social hardship for others.

Maybe a share of the USD4.1 billion dollars in assets owned by PEW should be redirected to those affected by their actions. The current situation and outcomes were also exacerbated by irresponsible journalism on the part of those who should know better.


Warren Key

Author Footnote:

Warren Key is an Executive Board Member of the Gippsland Aquaculture Industry Network and is also the webmaster of the Growfish Aquaculture Portal. He can be contacted at

Note: This article has been published on the Growfish website. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or subject position of the Gippsland Aquaculture Industry Network.

Further Online Reading;

Farmed salmon, PCBs, Activists, and the Media

Extract from Foreword:

The salmon farming industry is being subjected to a host of allegations related to environmental sustainability and human health and nutrition. One of the most serious charges is that farmed salmon contain dangerous levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), an industrial compound that is widespread in the environment. Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. was asked by Positive Aquaculture Awareness (PAA) to investigate this claim and to report back to them. As you will see from the following report (which we have updated to comment on the most recent reporting of the January 9, 2004 Science study1), we found surprising evidence of contrived misinformation and irresponsible journalism. It seems clear that these findings form part of the larger effort by activists to damage the reputation of the salmon aquaculture industry by using food-scare tactics that have no basis in scientific fact.


Growfish Aquaculture Portal - Science Magazine - Pew Charitable Trusts - Positive Aquaculture Awareness - BC Salmon Farmers Association - Global Aquaculture Alliance - The Environmental Working Group - Center for Environmental Health - Gavin Anderson -

Previous articles published on the Growfish website with varying opinions and related issues concerning the Salmon Debate.

29th Feb Letter to Science Magazine Editor

29th Feb Activists use science to scare us

25th Feb Anti-salmon author on the run

18th Feb Salmon sales cut by £10m

18th Feb Salmon Nightmare: Spanish Supermarket Sales Slump Up To 70%

18th Feb Report on PCBs in farmed salmon causes 50 per cent drop in sales

13th Feb European Commission backs salmon farming

13th Feb Salmon Standards

12th Feb E.U. Commissioner's statement on Science study

10th Feb Fish farms ‘must cut costs to thrive’

10th Feb Expert View: So should we be scared of salmon?

6th Feb Oceana Calls for Global Testing and Labeling for Salmon, Fish Supply

30th Jan Fish today, fish tomorrow

30th Jan Lawsuit Targets Salmon Pollution

27th Jan Health scare cited over fish farm collapse

26th Jan Salmon: To eat it or not


23rd Jan U.S. Environmentalists Move to Sue for Farmed Salmon Warning Label

23rd Jan Salmon study authors hit back at critics

23rd Jan Statement Addressing Misinformation About Our Salmon Study

23rd Jan Environmental groups sue farmers, retailers over PCBs

21st Jan Scottish salmon safe to eat, says EU

21st Jan Confused about salmon?

17th Jan Scientists back toxic salmon study

17th Jan Answer this: who benefits from the salmon scare?

17th Jan Puzzle of delay in exposing report

16th Jan Green campaigners fund salmon study

16th Jan Salmon's still good for your health, says the industry

15th Jan Activists use of Science study to alarm public is misleading and wrong

15th Jan Critics: Danger May Be in Production

14th Jan The Perils of Aquaculture

14th Jan How fish farming could feed the world

13th Jan Oceana Calls for Global Testing and Labeling for Salmon

13th Jan Salmon farming industry reeling

13th Jan Has fish had its chips?

13th Jan Shetlands salmon farming 'could be halved'

9th Jan B.C. fish farmers dispute salmon study findings

9th Jan Farmed salmon higher in pollutants, study finds

9th Jan 'Bombshell' PCB finding worries fish farmers