VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Skwxwú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – The Federal Court has denied an injunction request from fish farm company Cermaq, which would have allowed the company to transfer 1.5 million Atlantic salmon into open-net pens in B.C.’s Discovery Islands. Ecojustice celebrates the decision as an essential step in protecting wild salmon populations and an eventual phase-out of open-net fish farming in the area.
On behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and independent biologist Alexandra Morton, Ecojustice lawyers appeared in court on June 28 to argue against the injunction, saying that allowing Cermaq to transfer more fish into pens in the islands would put wild salmon at increased risk.
In the coming months, Ecojustice and its clients will intervene again to support Minister Bernadette Jordan’s order to phase out all fish farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022, which Cermaq and other fisheries are challenging in a separate judicial review.
Margot Venton, lawyer and nature program director at Ecojustice, said:
“Ecojustice clients applaud the federal court’s decision to deny Cermaq’s injunction request and support Minister’s Jordan’s phase-out order. Fish farming companies may say the phase-out doesn’t give them enough time to plan for the future – but wild salmon can’t wait.
“Many First Nations and scientists have raised concern about the link between aquaculture and a steep decline in wild salmon populations. Open-net fish farms expose migrating wild salmon to contagious diseases, viruses, and parasites. Since the release of the Cohen Commission’s final report, fish farm companies have had more than eight years to prepare for this transition away from open-net pens.
“Ecojustice and our clients further 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.”
Ecojustice has worked alongside scientists, activists, and First Nations for years to protect wild salmon in British Columbia from open-net fish farms, which are often rife with disease and viruses. In August 2020, Ecojustice called on Minister Jordan to follow recommendations for phasing out fish farms in the Discovery Islands, first put forward in the Cohen Commission. More than 17,400 Ecojustice supporters sent letters of their own, calling on the Minister not to renew fish farm licenses in the area.