Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

BC Court of Appeal clears way for fish farm challenge

The BC Court of Appeal on Friday rejected an attempt to overturn an injunction granted to the Homalco Indian Band on December 24, preventing the restocking of Atlantic salmon in a fish farm in Bute Inlet. This decision clears the way for a legal challenge by the Homalco, scheduled to start January 24, against the farm’s operating permit.

The Homalco argue that they were not properly consulted about Marine Harvest Canada’s plans to stock the farm with foreign Atlantic salmon. The Band is concerned that farmed Atlantic salmon can spread disease to wild salmon stocks, as well as creating the risk of escaped Atlantics colonizing Pacific salmon stream habitat. But the Province has refused to give the Homalco Marine Harvest’s fish health management plan, or otherwise meaningfully consult with the Band about the risks posed by Atlantic salmon.

Sierra Legal Defence Fund is providing expert scientific evidence in support of the Homalco’s case. Staff scientist John Werring, author of a published report on disease transfer from farmed to wild salmon, has sworn an affidavit examining how the IHN virus may spread from infected salmon farms to migrating wild stocks. All IHN outbreaks in BC farmed salmon in 2001 were in Atlantic salmon.

“This case is an early test of the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in the Haida case, which requires BC to consult with First Nations about decisions that affect their claimed aboriginal rights,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Tim Howard. “Marine Harvest’s restocking plans are on hold until the Court can hear all the evidence of the very real risks farmed Atlantic salmon create for wild Pacific stocks, and whether the Homalco were adequately consulted.”

The injunction decision cites reports by Canada’s Auditor General and an environmental assessment by the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s in concluding that the restocking of the farm creates a risk of irreparable harm to the wild salmon stocks the Homalco rely on.

The case (Blaney and the Homalco Indian Band et al v. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fish and Marine Harvest Canada, Van Reg. No. L043154) is scheduled to be heard in Vancouver for 5 days beginning January 24, 2005.

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