Aquaculture North America

Federal court judge rules against reviewing decision on open-net farming in B.C.

June 12, 2024
By Aquaculture North America staff

Net pen farms have faced opposition for potential risks to the wild salmon population (File photo: Mowi Canada)

The Canadian federal court has ruled against reviewing Ottawa’s decision against renewing licences for 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the waters off British Columbia.

In a written ruling from Judge Paul Favel, he states former fisheries minister Joyce Murray’s 2023 decision not to renew the licences for farms around the Discovery Islands met the “requirement of the duty to consult” with operators, and “did not breach the operators’ rights of procedural fairness.”

According to Canadian Press, Favel said the decision – which cited the uncertain risks posed by fish farms to wild salmon – was “reasonable.”

The application for judicial review into the decision not to renew licences was launched by the Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai nations in Quadra Island and Campbell and Grieg Seafood.

In an e-mailed response, the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association expressed its disappointment about the results but added that there is “still a collaborative pathway forward” with current Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier.

Meanwhile, groups opposing open net pen fish farms like Wild First and The First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance (FNWSA) are pleased with the decision. Wild First said the Federal Court decision is a vindication for Murray’s move after “extensive consultation with the industry, First Nations and civil society.”

Court documents say the First Nations made the application with concerns about the federal minister’s duty to consult, while salmon farm operators applied to review procedural fairness in Murray’s decision.

Murray’s mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked her with developing the plan to shift from open-net salmon farming in B.C. by 2025, and the message was repeated in a similar letter for Lebouthillier.

Earlier in the year, Canadian Industry leaders like The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) have written a joint letter to Trudeau urging him to support an immediate renewal of 6-year salmon farming licenses for the remaining farms in coastal B.C.  

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association is worried that the province could lose more than 4,700 jobs and up to $1.2 billion in economic activity annually if the licences are not renewed.

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Advocacy organizations, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, in a letter to Trudeau in June, said open net salmon farms “threaten coastal waters and local communities” and are asking him to remove open net-pen fish farms from B.C. coastal waters.


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