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Children's book angers salmon farmers

A Norwegian children's book about the majestic travel of a wild salmon has stirred the already fierce debate on farmed salmon in Norway.

Jan 24th 2013/mj

Salomon the salmon

Villaksen Salomon - The Wild Salmon Salomon - is a children's book written by Norwegian author André Vaaler, and tells the story about the wild salmon named Salomon and his fantastic journey in the rivers and fjords of northern Norway and into the Atlantic ocean.
Altogether a great story that has received praise from reviewers and readers - children as well as their parents.

But one particular group hasn't been that thrilled with the book, and that's the salmon farmers and their organizations. The problem is, that while underway, farmed salmon and in particular the feared sea lice, are amongst the things that Salomon meets.

A couple of quotes can indicate the mood:

"Salmon lice clinging to their sore backs, crying. They are many. Salomon recognizes them by the split fins, short mouths and bite marks on their backs."

And the book continues in the same style:

"The lice are crawling around the net, so he has to roll constantly so that they will not stick. Salmon looks tired. Nobody's laughing or having fun."

The Norwegian state television channel NRK has interviewed the author, who says:
- The book is not about farmed salmon. It's about the salmon's amazing journey. It is a dangerous trip for the fish. Salomon faces many dangers, both natural and man made. It's an epic story.
Vaaler thinks the book combines facts, adventure and art, and that there is no guarantee that everyone likes it.
- I'd like to have written a story where everything was just fine, but it's not just fine with salmon, he says.

The author has had Audun Rikardsen, professor in arctic- and marine biology as a scientific adviser, so the facts should be fairly well confirmed, and the book is actually a combination of the fictional narrative with excellent illustrations by illustrator Oscar Jansen and factual sections, explaining different aspects of the salmon's life seen from a more scientific side, but of course aimed at the readers - the children.

Still, the salmon farmers suggest that the view on farmed salmon and their conditions is much too general and without nuances. One farmer says that the farmed fish "...have plenty of food and are farmed in controlled conditions." and that she doesn't think that "...the life of wild salmon is particularly free of concern".

One reason that the salmon farmers might have to react as they do over a seemingly harmless children's book, is of course fear of the bad impression of their trade it might leave with the children. Salmon farming is big business in Norway, exporting for about 53 billion NOK or close to 10 billion USD every year.
That amount of course makes any bad influence bad for business in a big way, and the salmon farmers are already fighting uphill in a headwind, trying to convince the public that farming isn't as bad for wild fish as most scientists and anglers seem to think.

PS: You can find Salomon of Facebook (in Norwegian)

PPS: One of the other dangers to salmon when traveling is the angler's hook as can be seen on the illustration below, where a large salmon has obviously been hooked and broken free. As far as I know the mention of this fact has not stirred much commotion the the angling community, but then again: we acknowledge the fact that this happens...


PPPS: You can see sample pages from the book here and buy it online here (all in Norwegian)

OK, no more PS's... promise!



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