A Federal Court judge has granted an injunction to allow restocking of two salmon farms on the B.C. coast with young fish, after 19 were ordered closed by federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan by June 2022.
The decision allows Mowi Canada West to restock two operations in the Discovery Islands, as a separate court action by Mowi, Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood and Saltstream continues over the abrupt decision to shut down aquaculture in the region after 30 years. Saltstream operates a third farm for Chinook salmon rather than Atlantic salmon, and is also covered by the injunction.
“The harm to Mowi and Saltstream, as well as their employees, their families and other businesses in the community, in particular First Nations businesses, will be real and substantial if the injunction is not granted, and if Mowi and Saltstream are not permitted to proceed with the transfer of fish they require to undertake as part of their operations,” Justice Peter George Pamel wrote in a decision released April 5.
Dean Dobrinsky, human resources director for Mowi Canada West, said the company still has to apply to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to do the transfer of more than 1.2 million fish that would otherwise have to be euthanized.
“We have two sites, one at Port Elizabeth and one at Larsen Island that presently have nursery fish that we need to transfer,” Dobrinsky said in an interview April 6. “What it means is the minister in making the decision on the transfer licence has to go back and basically look at the science.”
Homalco Chief Darren Blaney, representing one of seven area Indigenous communities consulted over the closure and an ocean aquaculture opponent, issued a statement after the ruling, emphasizing that permission for the transfer is still needed.
“The minister must consult and accommodate those seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands regarding any applications for the fish farms at Doctor Bay, Phillips Arm and Hardwicke,” Blaney said.
Dobrinsky said Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists did what the Cohen Commission recommended, and reviewed the risk of salmon farms on sockeye salmon migration routes through the region.
“The nine-year study found that there was less than minimal risk from the farms to the wild Fraser River sockeye,” Dobrinsky said. “And then the minister added what appears to be additional conditions, which were this notion of social acceptance. That was a new set of conditions that we’ve never operate under.”