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Although their campaign might be designed to primarily criticise marine salmon farms, the recent launch of 'Operation Virus Hunter' by Alex Morton, Pamela Anderson and Paul Watson has decimated sales of BC's most successful land-based salmon producer too.

Fish Farming Expert has learned that, in the wake of the publicity stunt, sales of West Creek’s land-raised coho and sockeye salmon have dropped by 30%.

And Don Read, CEO of West Creek, told Fish Farming Expert that since the announcement of Sea Shepherd's expedition, he has received numerous emails and social media posts claiming he is on the “wrong side”.

“We recycle our water, are chemical- and antibiotic-free, have feed conversion ratio of 1.2:1, have no sea lice, produce excellent quality fish, and are Ocean Wise and SeaChoice approved for sustainability,” Read says.

“The activists claim they support land-based closed containment aquaculture, but their vilification of all farmed salmon harms land-based operations as much, or more, than ocean-based. When we have appealed to activists with the problem in their message, they say we are simply collateral damage,” he adds.

Solidarity

Although he clearly operates in very different conditions to most salmon producers, Read won’t condemn traditional salmon farmers.

“How can we," he reflects, "we are salmon farmers too, albeit on land. It is poor advice to try and prop yourself up at the expense of others.”

However, one tweet by a notorious anti-salmon farming critic cautioned West Creek BC that “you would be wise to position self as environmentally responsible alternative to net cages, instead of aligning with them”.

Is this why activists, who claim the only way to farm fish is on land, won’t support companies such as West Creek?

“You can’t support land-based fish farming while delivering a message that says farmed fish are bad, its hypocritical,” says Read.

“We ask activists to clarify their message for consumers, and help teach consumers they have options in the marketplace, and in their opinion, not all farmed salmon is bad,” he adds. "But it's pretty hard to be considered an activist and deliver a moderate message."