Friday, 5 October 2012

Salmon Farm Activist Acquitted of Defamation - Oct 4, 1012

Salmon Farm Activist Acquitted of Defamation

My guess is the average sport fisher does not know who Don Staniford is. And I venture that Staniford doesn’t know the difference between a bull head and a bull trout, or even how to catch a salmon. But the roughly 300,000 licenced sport fishers in BC owe him their gratitude. That is because he has been fearless in his opposition to in-ocean fish farms, particularly in BC, Scotland, Norway and other countries.

Staniford’s approach to criticizing the industry that has in recent months had well-reported disease problems in BC, Washington, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, is flamboyant in the extreme and often foolhardy. His approach lies somewhere between Monty Python and Darth Vader, with the Energizer Bunny supplying manic energy to his 24-hour a day activism.

Mainstream Canada sued him for defamation in February 2012. Judge Adair has just released her findings. I have excised five pages of relevant clauses from her ruling and you may find it on my blog,, which also contains the link to her 71 page ruling – really worth reading in its entirety. [Note: the excised comments are the next post on this blog].

Mainstream’s reasons are summarized in clause 10: “Mainstream claims that, in their natural and ordinary meaning, Mr. Staniford’s statements, in context, meant and were understood to mean that Mainstream’s business and products kill people, and that Mainstream is knowingly marketing a carcinogenic product that causes illness, death and harm. Mainstream says that the “sting” arising from Mr. Staniford’s publications is that farmed salmon – like smoking – causes cancer, and that the salmon farming industry is as odious and dishonest as the tobacco industry.”

Pretty damning stuff. And Judge Adair roasts Staniford’s character: “[his] value judgments… [are] prejudiced, exaggerated and obstinate [171].” And, [from 174]: “Mr. Staniford’s judgements have no balance because balance does not exist in Mr. Staniford’s world when it comes to salmon farming. He has dedicated himself to eradicating it.” She also found that his comments were defamatory [118], and that they applied to Mainstream [141].

But at the end, Adair excused Staniford of defamation on the grounds that he believed what he was saying was true. Having read a lot of what he has written, I ignore his inflammatory approach and follow-up his links to the science. They are on the money.

My opinion is that, sadly, the top four problems for ten species of salmonids are: fish farms, DFO, run of river power and Global Warming. The last we can do little about quickly, but the other three can be addressed today with policy decisions. The Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye collapse reconvened in December 2011 to assess whether fish farm diseases kill wild salmon. Its report is due by October 30, 2012. I’ll let you know what it says.

Sport fishers should pat Staniford on the back – he has withstood being sued three times over the past decade by fish farms, though never successfully – because his bottom line is to stand with wild salmon in BC. In fairness, I don’t see that fish farms need to be eradicated - they need to be on land where their density-related disease amplification affects no other fish or species. I have found more than 8,000 actual on-land farms around the world, so there is no technological or economic impediment. We need wild salmon and so do 37 species of our wild animals like bears and eagles.

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