June 24th, 2024

Federal Court rejects bid to review not renewing licences of B.C. fish farms

By The Canadian Press on June 8, 2024.

An Atlantic salmon is shown at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER – A federal Court has rejected a bid by two First Nations and salmon farm operators to review Ottawa’s decision to not renew licences for 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the waters off British Columbia.

The written ruling from Judge Paul Favel says former fisheries minister Joyce Murray’s February 2023 decision not to renew the licences for farms around B.C.’s Discovery Islands met the “requirement of the duty to consult” and “did not breach the operators’ rights of procedural fairness.”

Favel also says the federal 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 the areas of Quadra Island and Campbell, some 200 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, as well as salmon farm operators including Grieg Seafood.

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.

In a written statement, open-net fish farming opponent group Wild First says the Federal Court decision is a “vindication” for Murray’s move after “extensive consultation with the industry, First Nations and civil society.”

“She took the trouble to learn about the science that her department officials have been suppressing or ignoring and made the right call,” said Wild First campaign chairman Tony Allard. “We are indebted to her for taking decisive action to protect wild salmon.”

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 current Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier.

Neither the fisheries Department nor the minister have yet released final transition plans for 79 B.C. salmon farms.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association said an analysis showed 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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2024.

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