Canadian Court has ruled on bid to review minister’s order to shutter BC salmon farms

Editorial Staff

The judicial review was filed following former DFO minister Joyce Murray’s decision to not renew aquaculture licences in the Discovery Islands region, within the traditional territory of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose peoples.

A Canadian federal court has upheld the decision not to renew salmon farming licenses in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia.

The Federal Court has rejected a bid by two First Nations and salmon farm operators to review Ottawa’s decision to not renew licences for 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the waters off British Columbia.

The written ruling from Judge Paul Favel says former fisheries minister Joyce Murray’s February 2023 decision not to renew the licences for farms around B.C.’s Discovery Islands met the “requirement of the duty to consult” with operators, and “did not breach the operators’ rights of procedural fairness.”

Favel also says the federal decision, which cited the uncertain risks posed by fish farms to wild salmon, was “reasonable.”

The application for judicial review into the decision not to renew licences was launched by the Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai nations in the areas of Quadra Island and Campbell, some 200 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, as well as salmon farm operators including Grieg Seafood, Cermaq Canada, and Mowi Canada West.

The initial move to phase out ocean-based salmon farming in the Discovery Islands was announced in December 2020. This decision was later challenged and temporarily overturned, but after further consultations, the DFO reaffirmed the non-renewal of licenses in 2023.

The DFO’s actions align with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to transition from net-pen salmon farming to land-based aquaculture. However, salmon farming companies argue that land-based systems are not economically feasible due to high costs, increased energy requirements, and extensive space needs.

A report commissioned by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food estimated that transitioning to land-based systems would require an investment of CAD 1.8 billion ($1.3 billion) and could result in economic disadvantages for B.C. communities.


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