Bricks and Mortars

OPINION: Civility starts with truth

By Lawrence Reichard | Jul 20, 2018

There has been much talk of incivility plaguing the Nordic Aquafarms debate, but truth is the essence of civility, and here Nordic is coming up woefully short. In two recent columns I wrote about numerous misrepresentations made by Nordic regarding its proposed Belfast fish factory, such as the suggestion that fish can't escape from land-based fish factories — they can and they do.

But since the publication of those two columns, Nordic has migrated from mere misrepresentations squarely into the realm of outright lies.

At a June 12 public information meeting, a panel of purported experts fielded softball questions tossed out in soothing tones by Des Fitzgerald, founder of Belfast's Ducktrap River, now owned by Marine Harvest, the world's biggest salmon producer and a Norwegian corporation with a list of environmental problems as long as your arm.

After Fitzgerald's questions, the panel took questions from the audience, and in response to a question about Nordic's feed, a panelist said that humans don't eat the fish that comprise fishmeal. That's a lie.

Wikipedia lists 14 fish species that comprise fishmeal. Humans eat 13 of those 14 species, and consume the 14th as fish oil.

This is important because Nordic is selling its fish factory as the most efficient way to produce protein for a hungry world, and that's untrue. It would be much more efficient to consume the original fish stock — and that doesn't even count plant-based protein. It's also important because Nordic is asking to be trusted with a host of unanswered questions regarding issues such as discharge pollution and the composition of its fishmeal, which affects the composition of its discharge and profoundly affects forage fish stocks, which are vital to general fish populations.

It's disturbing enough that an alleged expert would mislead — or lie to — this small community, but what's worse, no other member of the panel corrected such an obvious misstatement — or lie. Getting one, two or even three of 14 fish species wrong might be a misstatement. Getting 13 or all 14 of 14 fish species wrong is a lie, as was the silence of the rest of the panel.

It's also troubling that one panel “expert” said it was fortunate that Nordic's fishmeal, sourced elsewhere, wouldn't pressure Gulf of Maine forage fish populations, apparently unconcerned that Nordic's fishmeal might pressure forage fish populations elsewhere. Indeed, Peru, a major forage fish supplier, has repeatedly had to close its anchoveta (anchovy) fisheries because of overfishing to supply foreign fish factories.

And for those seeking an honest discussion and debate going forward, one recent move by Nordic is discouraging. At the June meeting, Nordic announced the hiring of Marianne Naess, wife of Nordic CEO Erik Heim, to, among other things, “oversee public relations.” This is not reassuring. Naess' resume reads like a Who's Who of corporate irresponsibility and outright criminality.

Naess comes most recently from what Nordic calls a senior executive position at McKesson, the sixth-largest corporation in the country and a company up to its eyeballs in the opioid crisis.

McKesson recently shelled out $150 million in fines for turning a blind eye to suspicious opioid orders — 5.8 million opioid pills to just one pharmacy in West Virginia, ground zero for the national opioid crisis and a state that suffered 670 opioid deaths in 2016, at a per capita rate 72 percent higher than Maine's, which is almost double the national rate.

And in 2016, McKesson lobbyists succeeded in getting Congress to kneecap Drug Enforcement Agency efforts to prosecute corporate opioid pushers such as, well, McKesson. A killer company to work for.

Before McKesson, Naess was at Aker Solutions, a Norwegian company that supplies offshore drilling equipment to oil companies. Aker works in dozens of countries around the world, including Nigeria, where corruption is wildly out of control, where Big Oil is destroying the environment of the great Niger Delta, and where the murder of environmental activists is almost routine.

Before Aker, Naess was at Ernst & Young (now rebranded as EY), a global financial services corporation that specializes in helping millionaires and billionaires hide their wealth, often illegally, in shady offshore banks where they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

According to Tax Justice Network, EY is one of the four biggest culprits in this giant global scam that rips off those of us who do pay our fair share of taxes.

Naess's Ernst & Young background fits squarely with Nordic's having incorporated its only U.S. operations — those of Belfast — not in Maine, but in Delaware, where untold numbers of corporations hide from the taxman in the loving confines of P.O. boxes.

And before EY, Naess was at Arthur Anderson, an ethically challenged global accounting firm that imploded in the wake of cooking the books and destroying records in the infamous Enron scandal, a veritable Ponzi scheme that nipped at the heels of the George W. Bush administration and became the then-biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

No one leaves a senior executive position at McKesson to work for Ma and Pa Kettle, and no one hires a tried-and-true veteran of big-boy criminal corporations to hand out candy at the corner of High Street and Main. This is the real deal. This is the big leagues.

As Nordic prepares to file for permits from the Belfast Planning Board, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers, the company is ramping up its PR campaign.

So far that ramp-up has meant hiring PR help from huge corporations well-honed in the art of deception. And it has meant wandering further and further from the truth. This bodes poorly for an honest discussion and debate about an issue that could profoundly affect the future of our small community.

Lawrence Reichard is a first-place Maine Press Association winner, freelance writer and activist who lives in Belfast.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Scott O'Brien | Jul 22, 2018 14:03

Thank you Lawrence Reichard for you enlightening piece. For someone who adheres to the adage of "trust but verify" I agree that the litany of corrupt corporate association puts a dark spin on the PR attempts. Big league frauds look at small town councils as rubes and easy marks. At the very least they should incorporate in Maine.

Joanne OBrien



If you wish to comment, please login.