A Simple Fisheries Question … News Media?

Part 1 of a 4 part series …


News Media? … is a simple question with a complicated answer.

News media has been top of mind for many over the last few years thanks in large part to U.S. president Donald Trump. He’s a master of divide and conquer confusion, and knows that news media is an effective pawn in his personal war.

Trump has embraced the term FAKE NEWS, and so should you if for no reason other than to be able to recognize it when you see it.

It’s harder to spot DEEP FAKE than you think.

Here’s what it looks like …

Here’s how it’s done

Fake news impacts fisheries every day

We’re unaware though, mostly because humans are trusting by nature.

My simple question, unfortunately, requires a complex answer, because just as there are different species of salmon, there are various types of news media. The challenge is that unless we have special awareness that comes through training and experience, we tend to lump all news media together in one chaotic kettle of fish.

SeaFood for Thought

Most would not argue that the Canadian government failed to effectively manage the announcement to move open-net pens to land-based operations. The message was surprising, and harsh. It cut deeply and hurt thousands. A heartfelt apology about this insensitivity to fish farm families would do a lot to calm the waters in BC. It’s not in anyone’s interest to make the transition harder. Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and Coast Guard, the Honorable Bernadette Jordan will have an even harder time to get open-net operators to the table in part because they are now fearful. Who wouldn’t be scared if you thought your company would be phased out? When employees lose faith, they bail.

All fisheries are under incredible pressure and have been for many years. Owners, and their entire job forces are nervous, and have been pushed over the edge because of the pandemic. Dropping a bomb about transitioning from open-net to land-based is hurtful – people have families. I highly doubt that the intent of the announcement was malicious, because to what endbut it sure felt that way.  

Contrary to what open-net pen advocates claim, the feds know it’s the right decision to transition to land-based. They get no points however for how it was presented.

Was it political? Of course, a bit. Overly political? Not when you consider that the ethical majority want climate change brought under control, and also that transitioning open-net farms to land-based will have a positive impact on oceans and sea life.

The message got ahead of the government so they had to scramble to explain their campaign. Change management is more art than science, and we know what governments think of art – it’s often the first budget cut. Several years ago I rebranded the largest seafood marketing council in Canada. The CHANGE CHALLENGE then, and still is … NO ONE WANTS TO CHANGE UNTIL THEY HIT THE WALL.

Careers are like addictions.

The reality is that west coast Canada will sooner-than-later transition to land-based RAS or runway fish farming. How aqua farmers become part of the transition will dictate their long term success.

It isn’t the first time in our lives that industries have been impacted by major change – a paradigm shift of sorts. I remember clearly when my father came home concerned that his company had installed robots from Japan to do his job. The union fought it daily for decades. The battles were incredibly aggressive, and sometimes violent. Workers lost the war less than two years ago after a very painful decades long fight – GM Canada is gone.

Did fighting help? Nope. It’s evolution.

I also recall when the music industry began using computers to mimic the sounds of instruments in recordings and live on stage. At the time I co-managed a multi-million dollar pop star that toured globally and sold millions of records and concert tickets. The musicians I worked with were excited and embraced synthesizers, but string and orchestra players saw the writing on the wall and tried to fight it.

Did it help? Nope. Not at all unfortunately. It’s evolution.

I also remember decades ago when Photoshop and digital cameras came on the scene. My growing Stock Photo FILM business with a million-dollar portfolio lost eighty percent of its value in less than three years. I was devastated.

Did I try to fight it? Nope. I knew it wouldn’t help so I embraced digital quickly.

I learned as much as I could about the burgeoning technology and changed my entire perspective about imagery. Today I co-own an international organization that promotes DIGITAL fine art. Many of my film shooting peers and colleagues fought the change out of principle.

Did it help? Nope. Film is long gone.

Here’s an example that might resonate personally with you.

Do you remember when the internet was introduced in 1989? Newspapers claimed almost immediately and for many years that the internet would never take off. They fought the transition and today still refuse to admit the internet had such a devastating impact. Back in the day, Craigslist lit the digital fire by competing directly with print Classified Ads. Craigslist didn’t kill newspapers, news companies did it to themselves by fighting change.

Evolution also Killed the Radio Star

Did it help to fight? Nope.

Malls too, are taking an evolutionary hit

Today, if I were an open-net pen fish farmer, I’d be racing to figure out how to leverage the evolution to land-based.

If you dig your heels in, eventually you’ll be fighting with all levels of government. Is that an investment you want to make after knowing what happened in other industries over the last several decades?

Environmental proponents have aligned with land-based aquaculture, and use social media to fuel the conversation with the #Ethical Majority . It’s a powerful collaboration.

The internet NEVER eradicated music, radio, TV, books, newspapers, imagery, or little else. At the end of the day, change delivered different opportunities for all of these industries, and it will do the same for fisheries, oceans, and sea life.

Wanna know who the internet did kill?

MIDDLEMEN, who happen to be the most vocal resistors because they see the writing on the wall and want to protect their careers at the expense of all else. Disintermediation is economic streamlining and often impossible for companies to ignore.

I feel for middlemen, but personally, if they keep putting up false fronts, I vote to have them go extinct instead of salmon.

If middlemen want to survive they have to get on board.

Regarding the transition to land-based, employees most at risk are those in middle management positions who are also middle-aged or older who won’t have the skills or education necessary to make the move to a more sophisticated and advanced operation.

If I just described you, it is in your best interest to immediately upgrade your skills before you become redundant. Regardless of your wall of degrees, unless you’ve been upgrading your education every year, a traditional veterinarian education more than ten years old won’t help you much today with land-based technology. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given open-net pen owners and employees fair warning, so don’t squander your time, or worse, decide you’re going to throw out an anchor to slow evolution. Fighting it doesn’t work.

The IRON LAW of INSTITUTIONS applies here in spades.

Change is a game of finesse and collaboration across the entire industry, and is another reason why we need more women in fisheries. Diplomacy is key to success.

BTW Cancel Culture … just got Frighteningly Real

… one last morsel, if China applies kabozi jishu, “stranglehold technology” to fisheries, like it does to other manufacturing growth sectors in China, the global seafood industry will explode overnight – for better or worse.

In Part 2 I’ll cover the roles that different types of news media play in land-based aquaculture …

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.