A man's who's company motto is "Refuse to go with the flow". Considering what flows out from salmon farm net-pens perhaps there has never been a more fitting dictum - no one would WANT to be in that flow. As a principle its one that carries as many negative traits as positive, like resisting to move forward for one. For a business that relies on sensitive natural resources, refusing to go with the flow is an aggressive stance. You cannot force the flow of mother nature, or control the shifting currents of society.
Today we're sharing a preview from the book that reveals a glimpse into the history of Cooke Aquaculture and how industrial salmon farming emerged in Canada. A global industry earning billions in profits from their self appointed 'duty' of feeding the world and, while bringing jobs to coastal communities.
No one has personally profited from and promoted the benefits of salmon farming more than Glenn Cooke. He turned a small family operation in New Brunswick's Blacks Harbour into the worlds' largest independent salmon farming company. Today a multi-national corporation with over 9,000 employees around the globe they continue to market themselves as a family business. Don't let that fool you. Its marketing aimed to distract you from the fact that - theirs are not the small local owner-operated family fish farms that Atlantic Canadian's have historically known. That's just what they want you to believe. Glenn Cooke and his 'family' have never been to your bay, or know that there's a coveted beach, lobster nursery or historical landmark exactly where they intend to dump their industrial feedlots. And when they do, THEY DON"T CARE, they're just here for the dirt cheap leases with family-discount like prices.
"No one has personally profited from and promoted the benefits of salmon farming more than Glenn Cooke."
To Glenn Cooke, Cooke Aquaculture is a family owned business, but what that actually means is its a privately owned and privately operated business, private being the operative word - and thats the way he intends to keep it. Glenn Cooke has no responsibility to shareholders nor is required to make public disclosures or undergo the level of audits that are publicly traded company's must do.
In 1989 Cooke Aquaculture began a buying spree and bought 12 salmon farming competitors in Atlantic Canada over the next 15 years, and in 2005 became the dominant salmon farmer in North America when it bought Weston owned Heritage Salmon (of Loblaws) with farms in NB, BC and Maine. Cooke's aggressive growth mirrored the consolidation happening globally, but with one difference. As the only independent business of the Big Fish dominating this industry Cookes are the only operators without shareholders. Their pace of growth is unmatched in the seafood sector. It also hasn't been without costly set-backs, which begs the question - who was backing their spree of aquisitions? Being that they're privately operated, one can only guess.
"Policy makers and regulators in salmon farming countries have tilted heavily toward promoting the industry at the expense of the environment, wild salmon, and other marine life. "
Net-pen farming is an industry that has harmful impacts just like Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Big Agra but there are other comparisons outside corporate industry. Wherever they operate, the business tactics of Big Fish are often compared to the likes of a mafia or cartel. An intimidating reputation reflecting how they deal with regulators, political powers, local fishers, critics and opponents in the various countries they operate.
It is more than second nature for Glenn Cooke to want domination over a region economically or control local officials, it appears to be bred in him. For generations his family lived in a rural New Brunswick community that was controlled by the biggest player in town, a local fish company. The fish company owned all the land and streets, controlled the police, the fire department and the electricity, and owned all the houses. Generations of Glenn Cooke's family had lived under the roof of homes owned by the fish company, their land lord.
No wonder Glenn Cooke's determination to be the 'biggest fish' in town is not limited to simply having power within his business or within his industry, to him that title had always also represented the power to yield control over local authorities, regulators and citizens.
When you read of Cooke's history documented in the book you will clearly see the defiance of regulations and laws,, lack of respect for authorities and a condescending attitude toward their community neighbours. For twenty years he's delivered the same media lines portraying rural Nova Scotians as hopelessly waiting for a 'General Motors' to save them. Instead, he proposes fish farms will be their saviour. He describes Atlantic Canadians as "good people who are hard workers" like someone about to give a pat on the back before a 5 cent raise. But all opposed to his salmon farms are mis-informed fear mongerers. Perpetually dangling a carrot in front of governments and citizens - promising jobs, a new processing plant or state of the art hatchery. Promises that always hinge on letting Cooke put in more salmon farms first. The NS government has given them 10's of millions of dollars but the promised facilities don't exist and there are fewer fish farming jobs today in NS than there were in 1995. Even though there is upwards of 1000X more production.
"The industry grew steadily, but so did the problems. Everywhere that open net-pen salmon farms were located, the same set of challenges arose. Caged salmon were attracting parasites and diseases in numbers never seen in the wild."
As the Atlantic Salmon Federation says about the emergence of net-pen farming in Canada, which they initially supported, "It was an experiment that went wrong and we acknowledge it as such". But tragically neither Cooke nor Canadian governments will acknowledge the harm. One has profited too much to back away, and the other has spent too much to back away.
Please enjoy the pages below from the book! Thank you to Catherine and Doug for allowing us to share this here. There is SO much more eye opening insights into this industry in the book, its a must read. We've included a link at the bottom for where to buy it so you can read more.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS OF THE BOOK:
"Frantz spent 37 years as a newspaper editor and reporter, sharing a Pulitzer Prize at The New York Times and serving as managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. After leaving journalism, he was chief investigator for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State in the Obama administration, and Deputy Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Collins was a reporter and prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and contributed to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Upon leaving her newspaper career, she became a private investigator specializing in international financial fraud and corruption.
They began work on Salmon Wars in January 2020 after hearing about the environmental dangers of salmon farming at a public meeting near their home in Nova Scotia."
Read more about the authors here.
This new book was released on July 12th to many impressive reviews. PLB will be hosting a presentation and book signing event with the authors at The Astor Theatre in Liverpool this September 25th, so stay tuned for more details. We've also just shared the dates and locations for this event taking place around Nova Scotia between now and mid October, on our Facebook page.
Below is a link for where to buy the book and search for local shops in NS that carry it, including in LaHave, Lunenburg, Annapolis Royal, and Halifax. Also avail online at Chapters and Amazon. (Note: Amazon has a free kindle reader app usable on any tablet if you prefer to buy a digital copy but don't have a kindle.)
Visit our Facebook page for this post, for comments and to join the conversation.