VANCOUVER – The federal government is facing a lawsuit for their failure to assess the environmental impacts of a proposed fish farm expansion that would create one of the biggest salmon farms in British Columbia.
Ecojustice, on behalf of Living Oceans Society, has announced that they will pursue legal action against Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) unless they trigger a proper environmental assessment of the proposed expansion of the Doyle Island fish farm, which is seeking to increase production levels by 37 percent. DFO approved the expansion neglecting their mandatory duties under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. To make matters worse, the exemption from assessment was made on January 25th, 2010, just one day before the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered a restriction on new fish farm licenses and expansion projects and three days before the B.C. government announced a province-wide moratorium.
“B.C. is facing the collapse of wild salmon runs and has issued a moratorium on fish farm expansion,” said Will Soltau of Living Oceans Society. “DFO should be doing everything they can to protect our wild salmon and the people who depend on them. That must include proper assessment of salmon farm expansion proposals.”
In approving the expansion of the Doyle Island facility near Port Hardy, DFO used an outdated assessment that only looked at the facility’s current production of 2,550 tonnes of salmon. The groups are calling on DFO to undertake a proper environmental assessment of the impacts expanding production levels to 3,500 tonnes will have as is mandated by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
“DFO has already explicitly recognized that expansions like this require approval under the Fisheries Act,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Judah Harrison. “This, in itself, should trigger an environmental assessment, yet DFO has refused to do so.”
Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered a restriction on the issuance of both new fish farm licenses and the expansion of existing fish farms on January 26, 2010. Two days after this ruling, Agriculture and Lands Minister Steve Thomson announced that the Province of B.C. has placed a moratorium on the issuance of new finish aquaculture licenses.
The federal government has also launched a Commission of Inquiry into the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon. The Cohen Commission is set to begin in March and will examine a range of factors contributing to the collapse including the impact of salmon farming on wild stocks.