VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – In a disappointing decision, the Federal Court has granted an injunction to two fish farm companies, which will allow them to apply to transfer fish into three open-net fish farms in B.C.’s Discovery Islands.
The ruling exempts the three fish farms from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan’s decision to prohibit the transfer of additional fish into Discovery Islands fish farms during the phase out of fish farming in the area.
The ban on further transfer of fish was an aspect of the Minister’s December 2020 decision to phase out fish farms in the Discovery islands by June 2022. The ruling does not force the Minister to allow the transfers but instead it requires that the Minister consider the companies’ transfer applications as if she had not made the decision to limit all transfers in the Discovery Islands.
Ecojustice, on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and independent biologist Alexandra Morton, argued in court last week against granting the injunction to the two fish farm companies — Mowi and a numbered company — and said that stocking farms in the area would put wild salmon at increased risk.
In January 2021, fish farm companies launched a judicial review challenging the Minister’s decision to phase out fish farms in the Discovery Islands by 2022. This injunction has been granted before the Court has had an opportunity to determine that underlying challenge to the Minister’s decision.
In the coming months, Ecojustice, on behalf of its clients, will intervene in the underlying case before the Federal Court to support Minister Jordan’s decision.
Margot Venton, lawyer and nature program director at Ecojustice said:
“We are extremely disappointed by the Court’s decision to grant these two fish farm companies an injunction that will allow them to apply to transfer fish to open-net pens in the ocean. This extraordinary ruling opens the door for fish farm companies to restock farms throughout the phase out period.
The Court has set a concerning precedent by suspending the Minister’s decision, which responded to the concerns of several of the Discovery Island First Nations who had requested that the Minister prohibit restocking of farms in the Discovery Islands.
“This ruling could put wild salmon in jeopardy when they migrate to the ocean this year and next. Having fish transferred into farms that would otherwise be fallow increases risks to migrating wild salmon.”
“Wild salmon populations have been in decline for years. Last year saw some of the lowest salmon returns on record and the 2021 forecast isn’t promising. We cannot afford to put wild salmon at increased risk by continuing to have fish farms which are known to spread parasites and disease, along key migration routes.”