VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – On behalf of environmental organizations and an independent scientist, Ecojustice will be in court today to argue that aquaculture companies should not be allowed to transfer farmed fish into Discovery Islands fish farms, all of which are set to shutter by June 2022.
The David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and independent biologist Alexandra Morton say stocking farms in the area would put wild salmon at risk. They are in court today to argue against granting an injunction to two fish farm companies, which want to stock pens in the Discovery Islands over the coming months.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan announced an 18-month phase out of the Discovery Island Fish Farms in December following consultation with the seven First Nations with territory in the Discovery Islands. In response, four fish farm companies are challenging the decision. Additionally, two of the companies are asking the court for an injunction to allow them to continue stocking certain pens in the area throughout the spring and summer.
Last week, the court ruled that affected First Nations could not participate in today’s hearing. While Ecojustice and its clients look forward to presenting their arguments, they are concerned the court will not hear from First Nations on how their rights will be impacted by the proposed injunction.
Representatives from the groups released the following statements:
Margot Venton, lawyer and nature program director at Ecojustice:
“Ecojustice’s clients are intervening in this court case because they are concerned that any fish farms in the Discovery Islands put migrating wild salmon at risk. Additionally, Ecojustice is concerned that an injunction could set a dangerous precedent and limit the Minister’s ability to protect wild salmon. Wild salmon populations are already in decline. We cannot afford to put them at further risk.”
Kilian Stehfest, Marine Conservation Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation
“One of the most important wild salmon migration routes on the planet passes through the Discovery Islands. What happens in this area has far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and communities that rely on healthy wild salmon runs in British Columbia. Decades of research have shown that open net-pens pose a risk to wild salmon because they spread parasites and disease. We cannot afford to stall or backtrack the decision to phase out these farms.”
Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director at Georgia Strait Alliance:
“Canada has already fallen behind many other countries with the pace it’s moving to get these farms out of the water. The federal government has committed to transitioning these farms to closed-containment facilities by 2025, with the transition period already underway in the Discovery Islands. Allowing new fish to be added at this time continues the threat to wild salmon and fails to respect the Indigenous leadership that resulted in the plan to pull these nets from traditional territories.”
Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society:
“Since the advent of industrial-scale, open-net pen salmon farming on the B.C. coast, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has consistently denied, downplayed or ignored evidence of the impact of the farms on wild salmon. The weight of evidence of impacts has now become so great as to be undeniable. We trust that the Minister’s decision to close farms in the Discovery Islands will stand, so that wild salmon may have a chance to rebuild and sustain the people and ecosystems of B.C.”
Stan Proboszcz, Science Advisor for Watershed Watch Salmon Society:
“Everywhere in the world factory fish farms operate, they put wild fish populations at risk by spreading parasites, viruses and bacteria. Our Minister of Fisheries knows this and made a bold decision to phase them out of B.C. We stand in the courts to defend this decision and to chart a new path towards a healthier place for our wild salmon and those that depend on them.”
Alexandra Morton, independent biologist:
“Already this year, Mowi has exceeded sea lice thresholds set to protect wild salmon in the Discovery Islands. They simply can’t control their lice and we cannot lose another generation of wild salmon to this industry. If they are allowed to restock farms in this region, we will lose the Fraser River sockeye. It is that simple.”
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 Alliance has been focussed 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 Oceans works 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.
Alexandra Morton is an independent biologist who has dedicated her life to restoring the balance between the people and the wild salmon off the coast of British Columbia.