VANCOUVER – Four months after the Federal Court struck down the Canadian government’s policy on piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson has announced new steps aimed at protecting wild salmon from the virus.
On behalf of independent biologist Alexandra Morton, Ecojustice lawyers went to court in 2018 to challenge the minister’s policy of allowing fish farm operators to transfer farmed salmon into open net pens in the ocean without first testing for PRV.
The newly-announced interim measures include commitments to screen farmed salmon for two strains of PRV before transferring them into open-net pens in the ocean and to screen hatchery fish for the same two strains before releasing them into the ocean.
Ecojustice and Alexandra Morton released the following statements in response.
Margot Venton, nature program director at Ecojustice, said:
“Wild salmon are a culturally, economically, and ecologically vital part of B.C.’s coast. Introducing partial screening for PRV – a virus that we know hurts farmed Atlantic salmon and could threaten wild Pacific species as well – is an important step towards protecting the health of these iconic fish.
“Now, with wild salmon populations in serious decline, the government must continue to use a precautionary, science-based approach to build on today’s progress and permanently revise its PRV policy.”
Independent biologist Alexandra Morton said:
“This is absolutely amazing and wonderful news. After spending decades fighting to protect wild salmon and watching successive governments fail to take meaningful action, I’m not used to seeing this type of progress. While I am waiting to see who will conduct the tests and what the protocol will be when they find the virus, I recognize this as a bold and important step that no other Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has taken.”
Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.
Alexandra Morton is an independent biologist who has spent more than 30 years studying the impact of salmon farms on wild salmon and fighting to protect the wild species.