Two international aquaculture companies are heading to court to try to quash a recent federal decision to phase out contentious fish farms in the Discovery Islands.
Seeking an injunction
Mowi Canada West and Cermaq Canada want the Supreme Court to set aside federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan’s decision — in whole or in part — to phase out salmon farming operations in the region by the end of June 2022.
The fish farm companies are also seeking costs and an injunction to suspend the decision, or parts of it, from going ahead until the court hears their applications
On Dec. 17, Jordan announced licences for 19 operations in the waters near Campbell River on Vancouver Island are being renewed for the last time and no new fish could be transferred into the salmon farms during the 18-month period.
The fisheries minister said her decision was largely the result of overwhelming opposition to the farms expressed by the region’s seven First Nations during government-to-government consultations.
No advance warning
Mowi and Cermaq stated in the court application that the fisheries minister provided no advance warning of the decision, and did not allow the companies to provide input on its negative impacts.
The minister’s announcement followed heated public debate around the fate of the fish farms and the risks they might pose to wild salmon stocks.
The farms are on key migration routes for wild juvenile salmon, and eliminating operations in the Discovery Islands was a recommendation made by the 2012 Cohen Commission investigating the decline of Fraser River sockeye.
However, the recommendation depended on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) finding the fish farms posed a danger to wild sockeye.
At the end of September, DFO concluded the farm operations posed minimal risk to Fraser River sockeye after studying nine different fish farm diseases.
Both Mowi and Cermaq argue in their applications that Jordan’s decision was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally unfair.
Cermaq said DFO’s decision not to allow any new fish into its three Discovery Islands farms will force the cull of millions of juvenile fish scheduled for transfer to the region, the loss of 20 per cent of its production volume, and the potential closure of a hatchery. The company also said 21 direct jobs are endangered, in addition to others employed in supporting positions, with total annual wages in the millions of dollars.
Damages to MOWI
Mowi said its affected farms represent 30 per cent of the company’s operations and 645 direct jobs, many held by First Nation employees.
The largest operator in the region, Mowi owns 13 of the salmon farms impacted — nine of which were empty of fish when the decision was announced, according to DFO.
Both companies stated the millions of fish slated for transfer into the region take approximately five years to rear — starting with the selection of brood stock, the spawning of fish, hatching eggs, and finally raising fish until the smolts are ready for grow out in ocean pens.
DFO departed from past practice in failing to provide advance warning before making decisions that will materially affect, severely impair and end operations without providing operators a chance to provide input into the decision, the companies stated.
Links of Interest:
- (BC Salmon Farmers) Open letter to Minister Jordan: Your decision to close Discovery Island area salmon farms puts at risk 1,500 rural coastal jobs
- (Cortes Currents) Closing down the Discovery Island salmon farms
- (DFO) Government of Canada moves to phase out salmon farming licences in Discovery Islands following consultations with First Nations
- (Cortes Currents) articles about, or referring to, Cermaq Canada
- (Cortes Currents) articles about, or mentioning, MOWI Canada West
- (Cortes Currents) Articles about the Discovery Island salmon farms
Top photo credit: Fish farm companies Mowi Canada West and Cermaq Canada are seeking to quash Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan’s decision to phase out a group of contentious fish farms on the West Coast. File photo courtesy of DFO