This week, the Federal Court of Canada is hearing whether to uphold a previous ministerial order to phase out open pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands.
In December 2020, Bernadette Jordan, then Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, ordered the phase out of fish farms in the area by June 2022. This means licenses of existing farms would not be renewed and no new farms would be granted approval throughout the Discovery Islands.
In response, Mowi Canada West, one of four aquaculture companies operating in the area, applied in January 2021 for the Federal Court to review this decision. That request was granted and the case is now being heard this week in Vancouver, to continue into early next week.
According to Mowi Canada West, the minister’s decision was made without consultation of the industry and threatens the viability of the company’s operations in British Columbia.
Lawyers representing the other aquaculture producers operating in the area, including Cermaq Canada Ltd., Grieg Seafood BC Ltd. and a numbered company, will also be arguing in opposition to the decision in the hearing. Cermaq and Grieg also requested a court intervention on the decision.
Arguing in support of Jordan’s decision are lawyers from Ecojustice that are representing the David Suzuki Foundation Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and biologist Alexandra Morton.
The decision is supported by a precautionary approach to the management and protection of wild salmon, according to Ecojustice.
Legal representatives of a coalition of First Nations involved in the case are also registered to appear. The phase-out was ordered after consultations with seven First Nations with territory in the Discovery Islands raised concerns about the impact of salmon farms on declining wild salmon stocks, according to an Ecojustice press release.
This is not the first court case related to the order, which also banned new fish from being transferred into existing, licensed farms in the area in the interim period before the phase-out end date.
In April, the Federal Court sided with two of the aquaculture companies by suspending this restocking ban for three fish farms in the area. But then a similar request by Cermaq to perform a transfer at two of its farms was dismissed in July.
More coverage to follow.