Wild or Farmed? Seeking Effective Science in a Controversial Environment

Stephen Bocking


Arguments implicating nature and science can arise in the most unlikely places. At the supermarket smoked salmon awaits shoppers: chinook salmon from British Columbia, and Atlantic salmon from B.C., New Brunswick, or Norway. They are priced the same, and look similar, but embedded in their diverse provenance is a controversy thirty years in the making. The “wild” chinook salmon were caught in the open ocean; the “farmed” Atlantic salmon were raised in pens in coastal inlets. The distinction has spawned an intense debate over salmon farming (also known as aquaculture)—nowhere more so than in British Columbia.
In some ways this coastal controversy is unique, epitomizing the symbolic significance of all things marine to British Columbians. But it shares a crucial feature with other controversies, such as those involving genetically modified organisms, nanotechnology, or climate change. Since the debate began, science has played an essential role as a source of information and authority. Scientific knowledge and practice can be said to have contributed to creating the controversy, have added to its intractability, and, perhaps hold some keys to its resolution...

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v1i1.2971