Information Commissioner: Last week, we received a call from the office of the Information Commissioner with a request to confirm our details. Seemingly, they had received a complaint about us relating to data protection. An email quickly followed which informed us that a complaint had been lodged about the way we have handled personal information. This is the first complaint we have received about reLAKSation in nineteen years.

The complainant is Mr Corin Smith, someone who will be familiar to regular readers of reLAKSation. It appears that we have been sending him spam emails after he requested that we cease to do so. We can categorically say that we have received no emails from Mr Smith at all. We would have been delighted to have heard from him but like most of the anti-salmon farming lobby, he has been unwilling to engage with us. He is not interested in hearing anything that might undermine his anti-salmon farming narrative. Had he specifically sent us a request to be removed from our mailing list we would have removed his address from the list immediately. We have always adopted this policy. We don’t see any advantage of continuing to send the mailing to anyone who doesn’t want to read it. However, when checking the mailing list to identify the email address which he highlighted to the Information Commissioner, it isn’t on the list, nor ever has been.

The Information Commissioner’s office investigated Mr Smith’s complaint, without any input from us. They concluded that the emails cannot be considered spam because Mr Smith had previously subscribed to the mailing list and therefore had given his consent for them to be sent. They also perceived the mailing to be a blog and not a marketing mail. Their criticism of us is that we didn’t respond to Mr Smith’s request to unsubscribe. This is because we didn’t receive one.

The mail address Mr Smith used to contact us is the one which comes up when anyone replies to a reLAKSation mailing. It does not come to our usual email in box but a holding mailbox which is part of the mailing list. Any mail cannot be deleted without authorisation so must be read. We repeat that no such message has ever been received from Mr Smith.

The Information Commissioner has asked that we should contact Mr Smith regarding his concerns and that they expect us to work with Mr Smith to resolve any outstanding matters. We immediately wrote to Mr Smith but have failed to elicit any response. We were interested in hearing from Mr Smith because as part of his complaint he wrote:

‘Further they are publishing details of people who do ask to unsubscribe’.

This is a real puzzle as we have no idea what Mr Smith means. We never publish any details of anyone whether they are on our mailing list or not. We do discuss issues raised by various people including Mr Smith and will continue to do so. If Mr Smith wishes to be active in the public arena, then he must expect comment whether good or bad about him. What is interesting is that whilst he apparently doesn’t like to be discussed, he is more than willing to post details of others on his Facebook page. Amongst things he has posted are images of us and our direct email address. Given he has this address, it is surprising that he didn’t use this it to ask to be removed from our mailing list. Equally, we attended the premiere of the Patagonia film, Artifishal, where he was on the panel. He knew we were in the room and could have asked to be removed in person.

We can only conclude that Mr Smith wrote to the Information Commissioner in a malicious attempt to discredit us. As we repeatedly suggest, some sections of the wild fish lobby seem to prefer to attack the person rather than discuss the issues.

After some effort on our part, we identified a different email address belonging to Mr Smith and have removed it from the list. He only had to ask!

For clarification, anyone wanting to subscribe from this mailing list only need to reply to this mailing with the word unsubscribe – or any other message. The email address will be removed, and a confirmation mail sent that the address has been permanently removed.

 

RSPCA: Interestingly, we have seen an article in the Times that might grab Mr Smith’s attention. Mr Smith has previously written on his Facebook page about the RSPCA suggesting that their farmed salmon assurance scheme does not have strong independent welfare and environmental governance which is why salmon farms are not held to account. He argues that the RSPCA must adopt more stringent measures or lose all credibility and damage the organisation’s reputation forever.

According to the Times, the RSPCA are becoming much more hard line. The RSPCA’s vice chairman, Jane Tredgett and her allies have demanded changes to RSPCA policy. Their immediate target is the angling sector and they are calling for a ban on welfare grounds. They say that the RSPCA should fall into line with other charities. They currently campaign about the risks to wildlife of discarded fishing lines and hooks. Currently, about 3,000 swans are harmed by fishing litter annually.

However, the campaigners suggest that this is not enough, and angling should be banned altogether.

We suspect that Mr Smith and his friends in the angling sector may not be so keen about a more hard-line RSPCA after all.

 

Belated words: Anti-salmon farming campaigner Don Staniford has tweeted comments made on his Facebook page. These are from Dr Richard Shelton, former head of the Scottish Government’s Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory at Pitlochry.

Dr Shelton wrote that ‘The so-called salmon farming industry in Scotland is a cruel and environmentally repellent disgrace’.

We are reminded of comments from the late Bruce Sandison, angler, columnist and anti-salmon farming campaigner who wrote in Fly Fishing and Fly-Tying magazine after Dr Shelton made similar comments in a response to a Government consultation. Mr Sandison posed the question why if Dr Shelton felt so passionate about the alleged damage caused by salmon farming, he did not speak out when he was able to do so.

Dr Shelton was head of the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory from 1982 to 2001, the same period that saw major growth in the salmon farming industry. In 1982, production was less than 1,000 tonnes for all of Scotland and by 2001, it had expanded to 138,519 tonnes. Clearly, if Dr Shelton was concerned about the impacts of salmon farming, he was in the best possible position to speak out, but he didn’t do so.

Dr Shelton’s 2004 book, ‘The Longshoreman’ describes him as a keen fisherman and wildfowler. His recent comments are therefore not unexpected. The fact that he was once director of the Fisheries Lab is now irrelevant.

 

Sponsored: We previously mentioned Don Staniford’s Twitter feed and someone has drawn our attention to another of his ‘tweets’ which states as follows:

Question: Does does Scottish salmon get positive media coverage?

Answer: It has to ‘sponsor’ it like a dirty old man with pubic lice and STD’s has to pay a prostitute to get laid.

We, at Callander McDowell, would like to pose the question why the anti-salmon farming lobby has to sink to such low depths in order to try to make a point. There is absolutely no need for the second part of his answer. It’s not surprising that to the best of our knowledge, no-one in the salmon industry takes him seriously.

However, there is a point to his question. The article referred to appeared in the Scotsman as promoted by the Scottish salmon industry. We wonder whether the Scottish salmon industry is so lacking in positive news stories that it must become a sponsor in order to obtain media coverage?

For a long period of time, the industry lacked an effective and pro-active approach to communicating its message. The current management appears to have addressed this issue through recent appointments which must be welcomed. However, in our opinion it is important not to become too immersed in trying to promote the industry in a positive light to offset the negativity of the anti-farming sector. We must also stand up and rigorously defend ourselves against those who want to cast salmon farming in the worst possible light. It’s nonsense that images of one sick fish should be spread around the media as representative of the whole industry. We should be able to inform and communicate behind the scenes, so media recognise these stories for what they really are.

 

Malicious intent: Seafood Source report that more US retailers and at least one individual consumer has filed class-action lawsuits against several Norwegian farmed salmon producers, months after the European Commission announced it had launched an investigation into allegations of anti-competitive practices.

The latest news from the US is simply an extension of this attempt to disrupt the salmon farming industry. We must remember that it was not so long ago that major charitable foundations spent $33 million in the US to demarket farmed salmon. Whist there is no evidence to suggest any similar funding, it is not inconceivable that some-one is funding these lawsuits with a similar aim.

The allegations are that Norwegian companies have unlawfully conspired to fix, raise, stabilise and/or maintain the price of farmed raised salmon and consequently the plaintiff have sustained injury to their businesses having paid a higher price than they would have otherwise paid.

Clearly, the people submitting these suits have little understanding of the salmon market in the US. Norway is not the only importer of farmed salmon into the US. American consumers can buy farmed salmon from Chile, Canada, Scotland and the Faeroes. They don’t have to buy salmon from Norway so if the owners of these businesses thought that they were paying too much for Norwegian fish, why didn’t they shop around and buy from elsewhere. Even more significantly, why didn’t they follow their President’s exhortations and buy US product. Seafood Watch recommends consumers to choose US wild salmon rather than imported farmed salmon so with all this choice, why did these businesses choose Norwegian salmon if they thought that they were being ripped off?

Finally, we, at Callander McDowell, have always argued that those who alleged price fixing have no understanding of salmon production. Salmon are cold blooded and thus growth is dependent in part on water temperatures and this is similar for all production companies. When temperatures are good, producing good growth, more fish will be ready for harvest at a similar time and vice versa, low temperatures reduce growth restricting availability. This might give the appearance that producers are deliberately holding back fish to inflate prices. Perhaps, the lawsuits should really be suing the Norwegian weather?

 

Pink update: The first pink salmon has been sighted. It avoided UK waters and has travelled to the west coast of Ireland to the Drowes Fishery. This is located several miles north of Sligo. Could this be the start of a major invasion?

According to iLAKS, the Nature Services in Norway now believe that 2019 will bring many more pink salmon back to northern rivers compared to the number in 2017. This is because there was a big spawning biomass in the Barents region in 2017 with a successful smolt exit in 2018. Conditions at sea have also been favourable. Together, this will contribute to an expectation of an even greater number of returning Pink salmon, which in many rivers may outnumber native Atlantic salmon.

Nature Services say that there are a number of measures that can be taken but it is up the local river managers to sort out what action they take. We expect a similar response in Scotland that they have much more important issues than the arrival of a few Pink salmon to consider. After all, salmon farming is so damaging to wild stocks that even catches on the Tweed are now in decline whilst Pinks are thought to have little impact as it is said that they don’t compete directly with native fish.