Cermaq Canada calls courts dismissal of smolt transfer “politically driven agenda”

Cermaq claims Minister Jordan ignored Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s own recommendation.

On Monday, it was reported that a transfer injunction was dismissed to Cermaq Canada so now it is not able to complete one last transfer of mature smolts (juvenile Atlantic salmon) to its Brent Island and Venture Point farms. The salmon farmer had taken Fisheries and Oceans Canada to court over the transfer and licence extension decision.

At the time, Cermaq Canada told SalmonBusiness that “taking the time to review the document and determine next steps”.

In a statement on Tuesday, Cermaq Canada heavily criticised the department.

“While Cermaq Canada is disappointed in the decision, it was the discoveries made during the injunction process, which were not previously available to Cermaq or the Wei Wai Kum Nation, which were so disheartening for both organisations,” the company wrote.

“As an organisation, we are perplexed by the decision from Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Bernadette Jordan as salmon farming itself is in support of so many of both her, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s goals for the country – from supporting wild salmon, to the creation of a strong Blue Economy, creating food security, furthering reconciliation, and helping Canada reach it carbon targets. We know that farm-raised salmon can help support all of those efforts,” said Cermaq Canada Managing director David Kiemele.

Cermaq Canada’s Brent Island site. Photo: Cermaq

“We are also surprised to see that the Minister has ignored her departments advice in favour of what we can only assume is a politically driven agenda. Her recent decision to revoke 60 per-cent of commercial fishing licenses in BC – again blindsiding the commercial fishers in their own words – shows her lack of understanding of rural coastal communities, First Nations rights and the reconciliation process, and the role that all seafood needs to play in order to support a growing global population,” he added.

The salmon farmer wrote that documents obtained through the court process show that DFO staff reviewed Cermaq’s request for two final Introduction and Transfer permits, and based on existing criteria and DFO’s own science, research and opinion, recommended that Minister Jordan approve the applications but that she had ignored this recommendation.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in white shirt) during a panel meeting in 2019. PHOTO: Darren Fisher/Flickr

“Initially, we had believed that the Liberal government of Canada was one which built on the principals of inclusivity and was led by a belief and trust in Canadian-led research and science, as well as fundamental support for further truth and reconciliation in Canada. From where we stand today, it appears that the decisions coming from both Ottawa and Nova Scotia are not in fact supportive of these positions but are instead aimed at securing urban Liberal votes. Once again, a hardworking sector is blindsided and deemed unimportant in the face of an upcoming election,” added Kiemele.

“The inability of Minister Jordan to provide an adequate statement as to why she has denied our requests, to us, points to motives outside of science and social license and likely towards securing urban votes as we head into an anticipated late-summer election,” he concluded.