Ecojustice lawyers on behalf of biologist Alexandra Morton are bringing their case to Federal Court this week, June 11-13. The case was filed in May and is asking to stop licences granted by the Department of Fisheries and declares that DFO is solely responsible for making decisions about the transfer of fish to farms.
In 2013 DFO granted 123 aquaculture licences to fish farm companies that allow them to transfer farmed fish carrying disease agents into waters shared with wild fish. According to Ecojustice, "DFO has a mandate to protect wild fish and the marine environment. Our position is that federal fisheries law requires DFO to regulate transfers, and by granting these licences, DFO has effectively abandoned that responsibility".
The case was launched after Ms. Morton learned that farmed Atlantic salmon infected with the piscine reovirus (PRV) had been transferred into an open-pen fish farm operated by Marine Harvest in Shelter Bay, B.C., located along the Fraser River sockeye migration route.
The weight of scientific evidence links PRV to Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), a severe disease that affects the muscles and heart of salmon. HSMI has caused huge losses for fish farmers in Norway and it is not known what the impact of introducing the Norwegian strain of PRV into Canadian waters will be. Ecojustice's position is that "Given that we still know very little about PRV in Pacific waters, we should err on the side of caution when it comes to decisions that expose our wild fish and marine ecosystems to this virus. At the very least, DFO — NOT fish farms — should be making these decisions".
The case will be heard June 11-13 in courtroom #702, at 701 West Georgia Street Vancouver 9:30am-4pm (with a break from 12:30-2pm).