Appeal raises more questions about disease on B.C. salmon farms

VANCOUVER — Biologist Alexandra Morton is vowing to go back to court to uphold a precedent-setting Federal Court decision that struck down aquaculture licence conditions allowing private companies to transfer fish infected with viruses to open-pen farms in the ocean.

Late last week, Department of Fisheries and Ocean and Marine Harvest filed notice that they plan to appeal the Court’s decision.

“I am prepared to go back to Court to defend wild salmon and fight this appeal,” said Alexandra Morton. “With DFO and Marine Harvest trying to resurrect unlawful licence conditions that allow the transfer of infected fish in to the ocean, it certainly begs the question: Is B.C.’s farmed salmon industry dependent on diseased fish?”

Ecojustice lawyers, acting on behalf of Morton, filed a lawsuit in May 2013, after learning that fish later confirmed to be infected with the piscine reovirus (PRV) had been transferred into an open pen fish farm operated by Marine Harvest in Shelter Bay, B.C. They successfully argued that the licence conditions, which permitted the transfer of fish carrying any pathogen, were unlawful and undermined DFO’s mandate to protect wild fish.

Scientists have identified PRV as the likely cause of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation, a contagious disease that kills fish.

“The Federal Court’s direction was crystal clear that the licence conditions were unlawful and not based on science,” said Ecojustice lawyer Margot Venton. “This appeal certainly appears to represent another example of how DFO is attempting to wriggle off the hook when it comes it its duty to protect wild fish.”

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