Mowi has applied to the court to be allowed to transfer fish into two of their Discovery Islands pens to let the salmon grow to marketable size. (Photo supplied)

Mowi has applied to the court to be allowed to transfer fish into two of their Discovery Islands pens to let the salmon grow to marketable size. (Photo supplied)

Fish farmers in court today arguing for Discovery Islands injunction

DFO, conservationists will argue tomorrow against putting more fish in the pens slated for closure

Stakeholders are in court today arguing about Mowi Canada West’s request to be allowed to transfer fish into the Discovery Islands fish farms open-net pens between now and when their permits expire in June 2022.

Mowi applied for an injunction March 9 that would allow them to stock two of their farms, Phillips Arm and Hardwicke, allowing the farmed Atlantic salmon to grow to marketable size. They argue that without being able to transfer the juvenile fish into these farms, the fish will have no other pens to go to and will have to be destroyed.

An independent fish farm registered as 622335 B.C. Ltd., owned by Saltstream Engineering is a joint applicant with Mowi. It operates the Doctor Bay Farm and adjacent hatchery.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan announced on Dec. 17, 2020 that all fish farms from the Discovery Islands had to be out by June 2022, giving operators 18 months to manage the transition. In that time, no new fish of any size were to be introduced. This messes up their normal practice of moving salmon to new pens as they reach different life stages, Mowi and Saltstream say.

Mowi and Saltstream are presenting their case today, and DFO will present tomorrow. An environmental coalition given intervener status will have about 30 minutes in the afternoon to present their argument.

The coalition made up of the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch, and independent biologist Alexandra Morton, are being represented by Ecojustice lawyers.

They argue that farmed fish are a threat to wild salmon, and should not be allowed to be transferred into the farms.

The 2022 cohort of sockeye salmon is predicted to be particularly small, so the coalition is arguing that having extra farmed fish in the Discovery Islands for that spring outmigration is too risky due to alleged impact fish farms have on wild salmon.

Salmon farmers have long argued that their farms do not pose risk to wild salmon, and point to improvements in farming practices since the industry started in B.C. in the 1970s.

Five nations — Homalco, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and Kwiakah First Nations — whose traditional territory include the Discovery Islands were included in consultations with Jordan in the fall, but were denied permission by the court to be interveners on this injunction application.

No reason for that denial has been released yet.

That omisson is shocking, said Ecojustice lawyer Margot Venton, given that it was First Nations interests that led to Jordan’s decision in the first place. She hopes the judge will share reasoning on the decision soon.

Mowi has previously called Jordan’s Discovery Islands decision “devastating” to its business, saying it will result in 168 layoffs and has put them in a bind with nowhere to transition its currently growing fish. Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg and Saltstream have also applied separately for a judicial review seeking to overturn Jordan’s decision entirely.

RELATED: B.C.’s major salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

RELATED: Discovery Islands salmon farms on their way out

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