Charges laid over marine mammal deaths

Grieg Seafood says charges are unfair in regard to drowning deaths of 52 sea lions and one seal

A Campbell River-based fish farm company is facing nine charges in regard to the drowning deaths of 52 sea lions and one seal.

Grieg Seafood B.C. claims the drownings – at three different farm sites between July 2009 and October 2010 – were accidental and none have occurred since at their 21 fish farms.

“We were very surprised to learn that the DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) have filed charges against us for incidents that we ourselves reported back in 2010,” said Stewart Hawthorn, Grieg’s managing director, in a news release. “We believe the charges are unfair and unfounded.”

The charges refer to the drowning of 52 California sea lions and one harbour seal at Grieg farms located in Nootka Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The incidents occurred at Conception Point, Atrveida Point and Williamson Passage.

All the deaths were reported to DFO by Grieg Seafood.

“We were very saddened by these accidental drownings,” said Hawthorn.

“As soon as the first incidents were discovered we began implementing and optimizing various innovative marine mammal management initiatives to prevent further occurrences.

“There have been no accidental drownings at any of our farms since mid-2010. We are very proud of that record and believe it shows our commitment to farming responsibly.”

The company has yet to enter pleas to the charges and are due to appear in Gold River provincial court on May 4.