Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today’s Catch - Suit Filed

On June 22nd, two commercial fishermen based in Brookings, Oregon filed a class action suit against Pacific Seafood Group (PSG), alleging that company founder Frank Dulcich and his company have used its size and clout to control the West Coast seafood industry and suppress prices paid for certain seafood product by as much as 15 to 50 percent.

According to the suit filed in US District Court, father and son plaintiffs Lloyd and Todd Whaley are representatives of a class of West Coast fishermen or fishing vessel owners who delivered certain seafoods to seafood processors in Oregon, Washington or California any time between June 21, 2006 and “three months before the date of trial in this case.”

The suit alleges that since at least 2005, Pacific Seafood Group has possessed monopoly power in the relevant seafood input markets for Dungeness crab, groundfish, Pacific onshore whiting and/or Pacific coldwater shrimp. The suit further claims that PSG has used its power to suppress the ex vessel prices paid to fishermen by aggressively acquiring competitor processors, fishing vessels and harvest permits. The suit further accuses PSG of “stealing of seafood commodities through fraudulent schemes, fraudulent representations to a federal agency and miscellaneous dirty tricks.”

Some of the practices outlined in the suit seem to be simply the normal actions of a for-profit company, but some of the alleged “dirty tricks” include manipulating the rockfish bycatch market, altering scales and not recording portions of a fisherman’s catch.

The lawsuit seeks at least $394 million in damages, with the attorneys and the class members sharing the damages. The suit also seeks to break up Pacific Seafoods into smaller entities.

The same day the suit was filed, Pacific Seafood Group issued a statement in response, saying the claims are “completely without merit,” and the company “plans to aggressively defend against the allegations.”

More Bugs
According to British Columbia scientist and activist Alexandra Morton, a new virus has been identified in Norway’s aquatic feedlot industry.

A scientific article recently published in a journal for the communication of peer-reviewed scientific and medical research on July 9th claims a new Atlantic salmon feedlot disease has spread to more than 400 feedlots in Norway over 11 years and is threatening wild salmon in the area.

The same disease might already have arrived at salmon farms in British Columbia and Washington waters.

The paper, Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation of Farmed Salmon Is Associated with Infection with a Novel Reovirus, notes that Atlantic salmon mariculture has been associated with epidemics of infectious diseases that threaten not only local production, but also wild fish coming into close proximity to marine pens and fish escaping from them. The paper notes that heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) is a frequently fatal disease of farmed Atlantic salmon and provides evidence that HSMI is associated with infection with piscine reovirus (PRV) which not only threatens domestic salmon production but also has the potential for transmission to wild salmon populations.

The paper says, “Both poultry production and aquaculture confine animals at high density in conditions that are conducive to transmission of infectious agents and may reduce resistance to disease by induction of stress.

Unlike terrestrial animal farming, where contact between domestic and free ranging wild animals of the same or closely related species is easily monitored and controlled, ocean based aquaculture is an open system wherein farmed fish may incubate and transmit infectious agents to already diminishing stocks of wild fish”
Morton notes that scientists at an international conference in May reported farm sea lice are becoming harder to control, leading to more toxic drugs released into the ocean. She says BC sockeye and other salmon migrating past salmon farms are heavily infested with sea lice again this year. An outbreak of PRV could devastate the wild salmon in the area.

Learn more about Alex Morton’s strong support of wild salmon and opposition to salmon farming at www. raincoastresearch.org.

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