(Commentary) The salmon farming industry should, by all means, fight to keep most of its gigantic profits. But a line is crossed, when they tamper with my identity. I am part of the people from the coast, but I neither rebel nor walk in torchlight processions against increased taxes for parts of the industry.
Aquaculture or fish farming has been instrumental in the development of many local communities along the coast. However, the coast is more than just fish farms and the people from the coast have more in common than just salmon cages.
I am part of the people from the coast who see their neighboring islet in an almost untouched wilderness out in the sea being blown to pieces to increase profits and to evade taxes.
I am part of the people from the coast
I am part of the people from the coast threatened by gigantic, experimental diesel-fired farms right outside their front doors, in the middle of the Arctic Cod's playpen.
I am constantly traveling along the Northern Norwegian coast and I see municipalities so destitute that they will never be able to subsidize quay facilities for the farming industry.
The coast is my identity. In newspapers, radio, and TV, I am flooded with news of my uproar. That I am on the warpath. Because of a suggestion of ground rent tax in the fish farming industry.
I do not see any protests happening against the salmon tax outside Oslo City Hall.
The farming municipality Oslo
Measured by ownership, Oslo is Norway's largest fish-farming municipality. I have yet to meet capital residents that call themselves people of the coast for that reason. Nor do I see any protests happening against the salmon tax outside Oslo City Hall.
More than a third of the "Norwegian" fish farming industry has foreign owners, such as Mitsubishi Corporation. Yet, I have never heard the owners of Japan's largest trading company with 80 000 employees refer to themselves as people of the coast. That would have been quite a claim. With 1700 companies in 90 countries, Cermaq finds itself in Norway merely as a footnote.
The ground rent tax is under processing and is unlikely to hit 100% where it should. Of course, there will be locally owned, and from an international perspective, small companies, that will be "punished" unreasonably harshly.
Not an attack on the coast
That large farming companies, some mayors, and employees in the farming industry are protesting the ground rent tax does not mean that it is a brutal attack on the coast or us coastal people. The tax, depending on how it turns out, is a redistribution of wealth. It is a suggestion to take back some of the so-called superprofits which occur when private owners, Norwegian and foreign, are allowed free access to a common resource, in this case, the ocean.
We are left behind as hostages in an alleged coastal uproar.
It could be a lending hand to municipalities so poor that they have to turn off their street lights in the darkest months of the year. There are municipalities so far from the aquaculture lobby guerilla that they cannot even dream of heated pavements and gigantic sports facilities, gifted them from an industry that is now fighting tooth and tail against national communal work.
I write 'could' because the next discussion will be about how the state's increased tax revenue will be distributed. That is another, but just as important discussion, not least seen from the North.
It is an honest matter that the industry is fighting for its own power and money, but a limit is crossed when the message is being sold as if coastal Norway is protesting.
I understand mayors from both Center and Labor who rise in protest against their own government because they reside in local communities that benefit greatly from this industry. In the name of decency, they should also proclaim that they are against the redistribution of wealth that the proposal of increased tax is based on.
I get it, but I am also part of the people of the coast. A part of the people that dream of a public wealth great enough to bear the poverty that affects parts of the Northern Norwegian coast. Municipalities that have seen how resources from the sea turn into wealth so far away from the harvest areas that the residents hardly know where it is, much less has had the money or time to travel there.
Not an uproar
Some fish farming billionaires move to Switzerland or threaten to move to Switzerland to reduce the taxes on their gigantic fortunes. We, the proper coastal people, are left behind as hostages in an alleged coastal uproar against increased salmon taxes.
There are many reasons why the people of the coast should protest. The ground rent tax is not one of them. Thus, no uproar is happening, although there are many lobbyists in the hall.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.