Make no mistake - the proposed mega-merger between the world's #1 salmon farming corporation Marine Harvest and #2 in the shape of Norwegian giant Cermaq is a super-sized problem and the biggest news in the fishy world since Godzilla took on the Loch Ness Monster! Earlier today, the 'Big Wolf' himself (Marine Harvest's owner John Fredriksen) put more of his money where his mouth is when dropping a further $154 million into Marine Harvest (a drop into the bucket of his $11.5 billion fortune).
Industry consolidation over the last few decades has resulted in fewer and fewer corporations producing more and more farmed salmon.
Meet the man who will decide on the merger - Norway's Minister of Trade & Industry Trond Giske (who controls state-owned company Cermaq via the Norwegian Government's Department of Ownership):
Read article and more news on the merger online via Intrafish
Keeping it in the family, Norway's Minister of Fisheries (Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, nicknamed 'Lusebeth' on account of Norway's sea lice problem) is herself a salmon owner and her former Undersecretary of State for Fisheries left in February 2013 to join........you guessed it - Marine Harvest!
Marine Harvest is also lobbying the Norwegian Government to increase the 25% limit on ownership.
If the mega-merger is approved the new Marine Harvest/Cermaq would easily exceed 25% of Norwegian salmon farm production. Intrafish reported today on the 'Clash of the Titans' and detailed how a merged Marine Harvest/Cermaq would control 37% of Norway's salmon farms:
Marine Harvest & Cermaq certainly have friends in high places so should not be troubled by any salmon ceiling. Norway's Minister of Finance (Sigbjorn Johnsen) is also the former Chairman of.....you guessed it - Cermaq!
Read more on the incestous relationship between the salmon farming industry and Norwegian Government via 'Something Is Rotten In The State of Norway'
Big is not better, however, as sea lice infestation and infectious diseases ravage the global salmon farming industry. Being a big fish in a small pond also leads to increasing problems with waste pollution and chemical contamination.
Read more on Marine Harvest's takeover offer for Cermaq via "Salmon Giant Eats Salmon Giant - Marine Harvest takeover of Cermaq!"
In Scotland, the number of companies producing farmed salmon declined from 87 in 2001 to 27 in 2011 - with just 9 companies now accounting for 97% of Scottish salmon farming production (Marine Harvest alone represents some 40% of Scottish salmon farming).
In British Columbia, the number of companies farming salmon fell from 50 in 1989 to 12 in 2004. Today, three Norwegian-owned companies control 92% of the salmon farms.
If the Marine Harvest/Cermaq mega merger goes ahead then just one company will control 79% of BC salmon farms. Back in 2004 when the Raincoast Conservation Society published "Diminishing Returns: An Investigation into the Five Multinational Corporations that Control British Columbia’s Salmon Farming Industry" there were five companies controlling 80% of BC salmon farms:
In the last decade, the 'Big Five' have been subsumed via mergers and takeovers into just two companies: Marine Harvest (formerly Stolt, Pan Fish & Nutreco) and Cermaq (Heritage). And now there could be one big behemoth left standing in British Columbia.
Big is NOT beautiful when it comes to Marine Harvest - the McDonald's of the salmon farming world.
Photo: John Fredriksen, owner of Marine Harvest, and 87th richest person in the world worth $11.5 billion according to the Forbes Rich List!
Marine Harvest owner John Fredriksen, who looks as if he's eaten more than his fair share of farmed salmon and Big Macs, was nicknamed 'McFreddy' by the Norwegian media in 2007 following Marine Harvest's link up with McDonald's.
The Norway-only trial of the 'Laksewrap' (Salmon Wrap) was meant to "catch on internationally". "It is very exciting to cooperate with McDonalds and launch such a healty and delicious product at the fast food chain", said Arne Hjeltnes, Communication Director in Marine Harvest.
However, even the rabidly pro-salmon farming Norwegians found the 'Laksewrap' left a bad taste in the mouth.
In 1997, McDonald's were sued when "four people, including two McDonald's employees, were hospitalized after eating tainted McLaks salmon burgers at a restaurant in Lorenskog, located in the outskirts of Oslo". McDonald's Norway confirmed that the food poisoning materialized from a "corrupted" consignment of salmon fillets delivered by the Norwegian fish firm West Fish, based in Alesund. Separate legal actions against McDonald's were filed by the four people who claimed they became sick after consuming McLaks burgers. "At first the McLaks tasted very good, but after some minutes my mouth and throat became numb, and I experienced internal spasms," said Geir Sundberg, one of the four filing suit against McDonald's.
Advertising Age reported under "1997 Ad Follies":
"In Norway, McDonald's pulled the McLaks salmon burger off the market after four customers were treated for food poisoning. McLaks had been a hit with health-conscious Norwegians, and McDonald's had been considering expanding the product to Sweden and Denmark"
Super-sized salmon farming is one sick business that even Morgan Spurlock would find stomach-churning. Marine Harvest's 2012 Annual Report published just last week (26 April) revealed the scale of the sea lice crisis - with rising sea lice infestation rates in Ireland, Scotland and Chile:
Marine Harvest's Q1 2013 report published yesterday (30 April) also revealed infectious disease problems:
Sea lice infestation and antibiotic use are also increasing:
In Chile, "seawater costs have increased due to higher sea lice mitigation costs" and "the sealice load at the end of the quarter was higher than at the corresponding time in 2012".
A Marine Harvest/Cermaq merger would be a marriage made in hell - with Cermaq's Chilean subsidiary Mainstream Chile also experiencing high sea lice infestation rates (as presented in Cermaq's 'Sustainability Report 2012':
In Ireland, Marine Harvest now controls around 70% of Irish salmon farming production and has a super-sized sea lice problem. Undercurrent News reported in December 2012:
Read more via "FishyLeaks"
Two thousand protestors gathered in Galway in March 2013 to voice their concerns at the super-sized 15,000 tonne salmon farm proposed for Galway Bay.
Watch a video report via "Feck Off To Fish Farms in Galway Bay!"
The Irish Times reported in December 2012:
If the mega-merger goes ahead, expect to see farmed salmon served not only at McDonald's but also KFC and Findus.