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Federal Court rejects ministerial bid to shut down B.C. salmon farms


April 26, 2022
By ANA Staff

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The Federal Court has ordered the government to set aside its decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, which otherwise would have decimated the local economies of indigenous and non-Indigenous coastal communities on Vancouver Island.

The court also upheld an earlier injunction, which allows the salmon farmers to continue stocking their ocean pens in the Discovery Islands, reaffirming that “salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.”

Pressured by the anti-salmon lobby, which threatened to withhold it’s support for the Trudeau Liberals, former Fisheries Minister, Bernadette Jordan ordered the closure of 19 salmon aquaculture sites in the Discovery Islands on December 16, 2020.

Salmon farmers Mowi Canada West, Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood BC and 622335 BC Ltd, unable to get any answers from the government, applied for a judicial review of the government’s decision.

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Justice Elizabeth Heneghan, in her 66-page ruling made public today, found that former Minister Jordan, breached procedural fairness when she announced the closures via a press release. The press statement said all the 19 farms must be free of fish by June 30, 2022, when their 18-month licences expire, and that no new fish can be brought in. The renewal of these licences and another 60 licences, which also expire on June 30, remain in limbo.

Justice Heneghan also ruled that the former minister failed to provide reasons for her decision.

“In my opinion, failure of the Minister to provide reasons in her Decision of December 16, 2020, amounts to a breach of procedural fairness. The consequences of the Decision in this case are significant and the Minister owed a duty to provide reasons,” said Justice Heneghan.

“The Decision, in the absence of reasons, cannot be justified. In the absence of reasons, it is not transparent. In the absence of reasons, it is not intelligible,” she ruled.

Former minister Jordan made her decision despite nine-peer reviewed studies that showed the 35-year-old aquaculture operations in the Discovery Islands, had virtually no impact on wild stocks migrating through the area.

She “ignored her deputy minister’s recommendation for a more coordinated approach to the closures,”, which were primarily pushed for by anti-fish farm activists, who had threatened the Trudeau Liberals that they would withhold their votes for the party.

Bowing to the science-deficit demands of the activists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has mandated the current Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray continue to come up with a plan to transition all open-net salmon farms in BC by 2025.

DFO told SeaWestNews that the Minister is aware of the court’s ruling in the case  and will be making a decision on next steps in the case in due course.

“She remains committed to transitioning away from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters and is actively consulting with industry, Indigenous partners and other orders of government on the plan,” a DFO spokesperson said.

The BC Salmon Farmers Association said it is “encouraged that the Federal Court has set aside the Decision of the Minister to remove salmon farming in the Discovery Islands and has upheld the earlier injunction granted on April 5, 2021.

This is a positive development for the coastal Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in which we operate, and the thousands of family-supporting jobs our sector sustains. We will be reaching out to First Nations in whose territories we operate to review this decision and will have more to say in the following days and weeks ahead.”

Reported by SeaWestNews.