Norwegian fish farming company Grieg is suing journalist and author Mikael Frödin for trespassing in 2017 while filming fish farming facilities in the Alta fjord.
Mr. Frödin admits to trespassing, but objects to having committed a criminal act.
“We collected information, and it’s my journalistic obligation to show the public the negative impact of fish farming on ecosystems,” says Frödin.
The film and photo material obtained show diseased and deformed fish, neglected animals, negative ecological impact, and a significant risk for wild salmon stocks.
Severe threat to global wild salmon stocks
On the 21st of July 2017, Mikael Frödin came to the Alta River in northern Norway. Alta is widely recognized as one of the world’s most unique salmon rivers, which despite negative impact from a hydro dam, maintains its position as the river with the world’s biggest Atlantic salmon. Frödin has been a regular visitor for 25 years, both as an angler and appearing in Swedish television’s award-winning documentary “I Storlaxens Rike” (In the Realm of the Big Salmon). The purpose of the visit in July 2017 was for another film project. The film is an international production about fish hatcheries and fish farming industry’s detrimental impact on wild fish stocks. (The film is planned to premier in the spring of 2019 and is produced by an American film team.)
“We were only there to document and gather information, no harm or damage was done, there was no increased risk of escaped salmon or infections,” Frödin explains.
Grieg, one of Norway’s biggest fish farming companies with fish farms in different parts of the world, has sued Mr. Frödin for trespassing. The Norwegian “Akvakulturlov” (The Aquaculture Act) section 31 forbids moving within 20 meters of a fish farm or open cage/net.
“When first-hand information on conditions in fish farming cages in the Alta fjord was necessary, I had no choice,” says Frödin. “We had to break the law to document the situation.”
In a police interrogation, Frödin acknowledges violating the law, but does not consider it to be a criminal act, but rather his journalistic obligation.
“If a farmer keeps 70,000 cows in a small field without feed, with many deformed animals, sick and with fungal infections and open wounds, dead and dying cows, we would see it, and the operation would be reported and shut down immediately. Fish farming takes place under the surface, and if you cannot get closer than 20 meters, it’s impossible to see and inspect the activity.”
The Atlantic salmon, Salmo Salar, is a highly threatened species. The development of the Norwegian salmon resource is critical, with growing threats and rapidly decreasing stocks.
“If we aggregate all published research, there is no doubt that today the fish farming industry is the biggest problem for the wild salmon stocks. The three most serious fish farming related problems for wild salmon are the spread of disease, spread of sea lice and the spread of genetic pollution. Each one of these constitutes an existential threat to the stocks of wild salmon, but in sum, they mean that the wild salmon resource lives on borrowed time,” says Rune Jensen, leader of the wild salmon organization Salmon Camera.
In police interrogations Frödin accuses the Norwegian fish farming industry of breaking international environmental laws, and of genetic pollution of the Atlantic Ocean’s wild salmon stocks. Norwegian police will impose a fine on Mr. Frödin, if he is convicted, but Frödin says he will not accept it.
“If I have to go to prison in Norway in order to shed light on this extremely urgent situation and serious threat to wild salmon stocks, I will do that,” says Frödin.
The district court in Alta will decide the case on Friday, the 2nd of November. Frödin’s lawyers, Swedish Victor Karlberg and Norwegian Svein Holden, intend to prove that this was an act of necessity.
“We firmly believe that Mr. Frödin has acted with legal necessity. His purpose was solely to gather information to illustrate the impact of the industry on the environment,” says Svein Holden.
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