Ecojustice lawyers are appearing before the Federal Court to support a decision by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out salmon farms in B.C.’s Discovery Islands by 2022.
In December 2020, Minister Bernadette Jordan announced that all fish farms in the Discovery Islands would be phased out by June 2022, when their renewed 18-month licences expire, and no new fish would be transferred into the farms in the meantime. The Minister said the decision resulted from consultations with the Homalco, Tla’amin, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum Nations, who raised concerns regarding the impacts of fish farms on wild salmon stocks.
In January 2021, four fish farm companies operating in the area launched a lawsuit challenging the Minister’s decision. In March, the Federal Court granted an injunction to two companies, Mowi and a numbered company, which allows them to apply to transfer fish into three open-net fish farms in the Discovery Islands despite the Minister’s announcement that there would be no more transfers in the area.
Ecojustice lawyers — representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and independent biologist Alexandra Morton — argued in court against granting the injunction to the fish companies. In the coming months, we will appear on behalf of these same clients as interveners supporting Minister Jordan’s decision in the main lawsuit on this matter by arguing that this decision is supported by a precautionary approach towards the management and protection of wild salmon.
Why is Ecojustice involved?
This case builds on a long history of Ecojustice efforts to protect wild salmon.
Ecojustice lawyers presented key evidence in the 2012 Cohen Commission, which concluded that salmon farms along sockeye migration route have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and exacerbate endemic diseases that negatively impact wild salmon. Ecojustice’s team has also previously represented Alexandra Morton in other cases, winning legal decisions to protect wild salmon from piscine orthoreovirus and increase government oversight of fish farms.
Phasing out fish farms would have significant positive impacts on migrating wild salmon populations and the environmental health of the Discovery Islands region, and would respond to the concerns that local First Nations raised in consultation.
What would a win mean?
If Ecojustice and its clients are successful, the Minister’s decision to phase out open-net fish farms in the Discovery Islands will be upheld and these farms — which create risks of spreading contagious diseases, viruses, and parasites to vulnerable wild salmon — will no longer operate in the region.
A victory would also set an important precedent for future cases, as the Federal government works to fulfill its promise to phase out open-net fish farming in B.C. by 2025.