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Cermaq CEO Deserts a Sinking Ship?

by Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture

Cermaq CEO Deserts a Sinking Ship?

July 22, 2011

Tofino, Canada– Cermaq’s CEO Geir Isaksen has been formally requested to come to Canada for questioning as part of Cermaq’s ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ lawsuit against the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA).  In a letter sent yesterday to Cermaq’s lawyers in Canada, Mr. Isaksen has been identified as the Plaintiff’s representative for ‘Examination for Discovery’ and in another letter he has been asked to preserve key documents relating to the lawsuit [1].  The next stage in the lawsuit is ‘Examination for Discovery’ which was previously scheduled for September but may now take place earlier due to Cermaq’s CEO resigning nine-weeks earlier than planned.    
Cermaq’s CEO announced his surprise resignation on 14th June but Cermaq stated in a press release that: “Mr. Geir Isaksen will continue as CEO of Cermaq until 30 September 2011”.  Yesterday, however, Cermaq announced that Geir Isaksen would now be leaving on Monday (25th July) and only available to the company until the end of August.  Cermaq reported that: “The Board has appointed CFO Tore Valderhaug as Acting CEO of Cermaq ASA effective from 25th July until a new CEO is in place.  Geir Isaksen will be available for the company until end of August 2011, and in period contribute to a successful transition to the acting CEO.  He will take up his new position as CEO of NSB as of September 1st 2011.”
“Why is Cermaq’s CEO Geir Isaksen leaving so suddenly after 15 years at the helm?” said Don Staniford, global coordinator for GAAIA.  “GAAIA is concerned that Cermaq’s CEO is deserting a sinking ship before he is forced to testify and provide damning documentation on how salmon farming spreads diseases such as Infectious Salmon Anaemia.  His departure from Cermaq (Norway’s state-owned salmon farming company) to NSB (Norway’s state-owned railway company) is like leaping off the Titanic onto a runaway train.   GAAIA has written to Cermaq’s lawyers asking the CEO not to destroy vital evidence before he clears his desk and his train leaves the station.”   
Earlier this week, GAAIA wrote to Cermaq’s Board of Directors and the Norwegian Government’s Ministry of Trade and Industry and Department of Ownership (as the largest shareholders in Cermaq) urging the company to publish disease information in Cermaq’s Q2 2011 report.   GAAIA also wrote to the Oslo Børs, the Chilean Government and the Canadian Government alerting them to the non-disclosure of financially significant disease data. 
GAAIA made public for the first time a letter from Cermaq’s lawyers in Canada to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner claiming that the release of disease information in British Columbia would result in “undue financial loss” and “damage business” [2].  Submissions in May this year to the Cohen Commission by the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) – whose members include Cermaq – also claim “irrevocable” and “irreparable damage to the reputations and economic interests of the BCSFA’s member companies and their shareholders” if disease data is disclosed publicly.  Notwithstanding Cermaq’s concerns, disease data will be released publicly via the Cohen Inquiry in Canada next month (starting 22nd August).  If the BCSFA is to be believed the public can expect a “media circus” and the explosive revelations will cause “reputational and economic damage[3].
In March, Cermaq filed a ‘Notice of Civil Claim’ against GAAIA in the Supreme Court of British Columbia which claimed that statements such as “Salmon farming spreads disease” and “Salmon farming spreads salmon AIDS (ISA)” were defamatory.  Earlier this month, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported on GAAIA’s call for Cermaq’s CEO Geir Isaksen to come to Canada in September to testify as part of the lawsuit [4].  Last week (15th July), Cermaq filed an ‘Amended Notice of Civil Claim’.  The 20-day trial is scheduled to start in Vancouver on 16th January 2012. 
Further details on the ongoing lawsuit between GAAIA and Cermaq are available online via “Cermaq in the Dock in Canada” and the video report: “Don Staniford Sued by Norwegian Fish Farm Company 'Cermaq' for defamation”.  
Don Staniford (Global coordinator for GAAIA): (email to set up a phone call) 

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