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A salmon in mid-jump while swimming upstream.

Closure of open-net fish farms is a key step in regenerating healthy wild salmon populations.

press release

ENGOs welcome DFO decision to not renew Discovery Island’s open-net fish farm licenses

February 27, 2023

VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – On 17th February, Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Minister Joyce Murray announced her decision not to renew licences for fifteen open-net pen Atlantic salmon aquaculture sites in the Discovery Islands in order to protect wild Pacific salmon. Environmental groups are commending the Minister for making the right decision to protect wild Pacific salmon. 

The Minister’s decision follows months of consultation and is based on the need to take precautionary action. Ecojustice, along with the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, and Watershed Watch are now urging the Minister to take a similar consultative and precautionary approach to fulfilling her government’s promise to transition open-net pen salmon farms from coastal B.C. waters by 2025. 

Stan Proboszcz, Senior Scientist, Watershed Watch Salmon Society said:  
“Once again, the Minister of Fisheries takes precautionary action by banning fish farms from the Discovery Islands, to protect wild fish. We hope factory fish farm companies get the message this time.”  

Kilian Stehfest, Marine Conservation Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation, said:   
“Given the precarious state of many wild salmon runs, banning open net-pens from one of the most important salmon migration routes on the planet for good was the right decision. Wild salmon have provided food security for people on this coast for thousands of years – we need to put all our efforts into restoring their abundance and removing all threats to their survival that are within our control.” 

Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society said:  
Living Oceans welcomes the news that Minister Murray has decided to protect wild Pacific salmon from the harmful effects of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands.”  

Margot Venton, Lawyer and Nature Program Director, Ecojustice, said: 
“In the middle of a biodiversity crisis, the Minister’s precautionary decision to limit fish farms in a key migratory route for highly vulnerable wild salmon populations is a critical step in giving wild salmon an opportunity to recover and thrive for generations to come. We look forward to seeing the Minister apply a similarly precautionary approach to transitioning open-net pen farms from coastal B.C. waters by 2025.” 

Lucero González Ruiz, biodiversity campaigner at Georgia Strait Alliance: 
“We encourage the Minister to fulfill her commitment to implement a plan to transition away from open-net salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.” 


In 2021, four fish farm companies (Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg and Saltstream) launched a judicial review of then Minister Bernadette Jordan’s decision to phase out their farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022. The companies argued that the Minister had not followed a fair process for making the decision and that she lacked clear reasons for making the decision. 

Ecojustice, representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and independent biologist Alexandra Morton, intervened in court to support the decision of Minister Jordan, to phase out fish farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022. 

Ecojustice lawyers argued in Court that the decision was justified based on the risk that salmon farms along sockeye migration route have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and exacerbate endemic pathogens that negatively impact vulnerable wild salmon. As noted by the 2012 Cohen Commission, the Discovery Islands area is a key migratory route for wild Pacific Salmon, where narrow passages bring migrating juvenile salmon into close contact with salmon farms. 

In April 2022, a federal judge set aside the December 2020 decision by Minister Jordan to phase out open-net fish farming in B.C.’s Discovery Islands by June 2022. Ruling on primarily procedural grounds, the judge outlined the proper approach the current Minister should follow to make such a decision to remove open-net salmon farms from this area, based on procedural fairness and a requirement to further explain the reasons for her decision. 

Friday’s announcement by Minister Murray was made following several months of consultation and includes more detailed reasons on why she is not renewing these licences.  

In addition to this matter, 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. 


Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax. 

David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, founded in 1990. We collaborate with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. Our mission is to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future. Our vision is that we all act every day on the understanding that we are one with nature. Through our digital communications channels, we reach a community of more than one million people throughout Canada. We operate in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. 

Georgia Strait Alliancehas been focused for more than 30 years on protecting and restoring the marine environment through long-term, climate-forward solutions to marine threats and habitat protection, and to promoting the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters, and communities. 

Living Oceansworks to ensure that Canada’s oceans are sustainably managed and thriving with abundant and diverse sea life that supports vibrant and resilient communities. It has maintained a campaign to reform open-net pen aquaculture for over 20 years. 

Watershed Watch Salmon Society is a science-based charity working to defend and rebuild B.C.’s wild salmon.