VANCOUVER – Facing the threat of a lawsuit from environmental groups, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has withdrawn its approval authorizing the expansion of the Doyle Island salmon farm near Port Hardy, B.C. The project, which sought to expand production at the facility by 37 percent, will now undergo an environmental assessment which will examine its impacts on wild salmon stocks and the health of the ocean.
Ecojustice, on behalf of Living Oceans Society, had threatened legal action against DFO unless a proper environmental assessment was triggered for the proposed expansion of the Doyle Island facility. On March 12, DFO announced that they will fulfill their legal obligation and undertake an environmental assessment of the facility, as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
“This is the exactly the result we wanted,” said Will Soltau of Living Oceans Society. “By following the law DFO is ensuring that the potential threats of this expansion to wild salmon and the marine environment can be examined.”
In originally approving the expansion of the Doyle Island farm, DFO neglected their mandatory duties under CEAA by not conducting a new assessment for the facility. Instead, DFO used an outdated assessment that only looked at the farm’s current production of 2,550 tonnes and not the proposed expansion that would increase production to 3,500 tonnes.
“The law is clear that fish farms require an environmental assessment prior to undergoing significant expansion,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Judah Harrison.
“We’re relieved that DFO has done the right thing and will be conducting an assessment of the expansion at Doyle Island.”
Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered a restriction on the issuance of both new fish farm licences and the expansion of existing fish farms on January 26, 2010. Two days after this ruling the Province of B.C. placed a moratorium on the issuance of new finfish aquaculture licences.
The federal government has also launched a Commission of Inquiry into the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon. The Cohen Commission is currently underway and is examining a range of factors contributing to the collapse, including the impact of salmon farming on wild stocks.
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