FIN IN THE NEWS: Shatner beams in to salmon debate

CELEBRITY from the GLobe and Mail GLORIA GALLOWAY

As Captain Kirk, he often lectured his crew to respect life and not to take things for granted. So it seemed appropriate, if a tad surreal, to hear William Shatner lecture reporters on the importance of salmon to British Columbia's ecosystem. "Salmon feed and nurture not only the animals that are on the land but the sea as well, and the plants and trees and shrubbery," the 79-year-old actor's disembodied voice told a news conference Thursday that had been organized by the New Democrats.

"The fauna and the flora of the British Columbia river shores and rivers are nurtured by the salmon. Without the salmon, they die. And when they die, [there is] a huge rent in the tapestry of nature in that area. It is a basic species that must be saved."

Mr. Shatner called into the event from Los Angeles and did not take any questions after his five-minute speech about the fish. But he made an impassioned appeal for their protection.

The purpose of the news conference was to highlight a private-member's bill drafted by Fin Donnelly, a New Democrat from British Columbia, that would require the Pacific salmon-farming industry to move its operations out of coastal waters and into closed containment to prevent the spread of the sea lice that have been blamed for the decline of the species in the wild.

Mr. Shatner, who was born and raised in Montreal, conceded that he has never met Mr. Donnelly. Nor has he read his bill.

"But my opinion is that anybody who is trying to do something about as basic a species as salmon must be listened to," he said. "And if something positive can come from Mr. Donnelly's bill, I urge everybody within hearing to help with it."

It was during the filming of an episode of TV's Boston Legal , in which he played bombastic lawyer Denny Crane, that the actor first developed an interest in salmon. The episode, shot on the northern part of Vancouver Island, highlighted the problem of sea lice on salmon stocks, and Mr. Shatner said he was taught about the fish.

And when a Facebook page touted him as a potential successor to Michaelle Jean as Canada's governor-general, he quipped via Twitter: "Would they accept me if I campaign for salmons' rights?"

His "rage," he said, is against companies that act without conscience and care only about the bottom line.

For their part, salmon farmers contacted by The Globe and Mail were left scratching their heads at Mr. Shatner's decision to expound the problems of their industry.

Laurie Jenson, the community relations manager with Mainstream Canada, the second-largest producer of farmed salmon in B.C., said she would like to invite Mr. Shatner to meet with fish farmers, to view their sites and see the environmental policies they have in place.

"Mainstream Canada, like all the other farming companies in B.C., is an environmentally conscious company committed to protecting the environment where it operates and supports initiatives that will enhance the numbers of wild salmon stock," Ms. Jenson said.

"We care about wild salmon and the oceans we farm in."