Court delivers opinion in Mowi Scotland vs. Don Staniford appeal

Matthew Wilcox

Interdict prohibits well known activist from boarding or entering onto Mowi’s marine farm structures.

In October, anti-fish farming activist Don Staniford was permanently barred by a court from approaching within 15 metres of Mowi’s salmon farms in Scotland. On Thursday, his appeal to the Scottish courts was rejected.

In a landmark legal battle that underscores the tension between environmental activism and property rights in Scotland’s aquaculture sector, Sheriff Principal Nigel Ross has delivered a decisive opinion in the appeal between Mowi Scotland Limited and activist Don Staniford.

Mowi first took legal action against Staniford, seeking interdict (injunction) to prevent him from carrying out these activities around their marine farms in June.

Staniford’s actions, which he claims are part of his environmental monitoring efforts, involve boarding Mowi’s marine farms, securing his vessel to the cages, and conducting recording activities, including the use of video cameras submerged into the nets to document fish activity.

The company argued that Staniford’s activity posed risks to their operations, including potential breaches of safety, health, and environmental regulations, as well as disruptions to their staff and biosecurity protocols.

In response, Staniford defended his actions, asserting his right to navigate on the waters around the marine farms and claiming that his activities were justified by concerns over environmental impact and animal welfare. He argued that he had a right to access the marine farms as part of his monitoring efforts and that his actions were necessary to expose alleged wrongdoing within the aquaculture industry.

After considering the arguments presented by both parties, Sheriff Principal Ross ruled in favor of Mowi on Thursday, granting permanent interdict against Staniford.

“The motivation of a trespasser does not influence the nature of the underlying property rights, or the entitlement to interdict,” ruled Ross.

Mowi did not have it all their way either though: “The pursuer’s pleadings refer to industry regulation, animal welfare, and the safety of persons in the vicinity of the marine farms. These are not relevant considerations either, and we have not taken them into account.  Private regulations cannot encroach on public rights.”

The interdict prohibits Staniford from boarding or entering onto Mowi’s marine farm structures, but the idea of a 15 meter exclusion zone, which Mowi had originally asked for, has been dropped, as has the ban on flying drones.

“I will be reviewing the judgment with my legal team – including any options for an appeal – and will respond in due course,” Staniford told SalmonBusiness.

The court’s decision sets a precedent for future cases involving activism and property rights in the aquaculture industry, clarifying the boundaries of permissible conduct in the pursuit of environmental advocacy.

Mowi, the world’s largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon, operates 47 sites across Scotland.


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