FACEBOOK PHOTO/Swanson Occupation Members fo the ‘Namgis First Nation pose in front of a sign in Alert Bay in fall of 2017.

Federal court dismisses ‘Namgis First Nation’s bid to block fish farm restocking

Justice Manson said Marine Harvest has made “good faith” attempts at consultation with the ‘Namgis.

‘Namgis First Nation failed to win an injunction that would have blocked the restocking of a Marine Harvest open-net fish farm in its traditional territories off Swanson Island.

Independent biologist Alexandra Morton put out a press release dated March 26, stating, “At 8:00 a.m. this morning Marine Harvest poured the first of 950,000 Atlantic farm salmon into the Swanson Island salmon farm in ‘Namgis territory where members have stood in protest against this happening since August 24. On Friday, the nation lost its injunction to stop this restocking. Restocking will continue over the next week.”

The ‘Namgis had applied for the court injunction against Marine Harvest earlier in the month hoping to block the company from transferring juvenile Atlantic salmon (smolts) to its Swanson Island farm.

They also applied for an injunction against the fisheries minister as part of a broader application for a judicial review of federal policy that does not require fish to be tested for piscine reovirus or heart and muscular disease before being transferred to a farm.

Federal Court Justice Michael Manson said in his decision the company has operated for 28 years in compliance with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s requirements for transferring fish.

He also said Marine Harvest had no other place to move the smolts, given that the injunction application was filed so close to the late March or early April restocking date.

Manson added Marine Harvest has made “good faith” attempts at consultation with the First Nation.

“Farm fish are killing our salmon, our way of life and there can be no reconciliation with First Nations as long as there are farm salmon in my territory,” said hereditary leader Ernest Alfred via press release.

Alfred, a schoolteacher in Alert Bay, started the occupation and remains at the site, demanding Marine Harvest not restock farms in ‘Namgis territory.

According to Morton’s press release, the Provincial tenure for the Marine Harvest Swanson Island farm expires in June, but Premier John Horgan has not decided whether or not to renew it and the 21 other sites in Broughton Archipelago, representing 1/3 of the industry in BC.

“The Canadian and Provincial governments are allowing a million Atlantic salmon into this small bay in ‘Namgis territory, when Washington State just prohibited the industry,” said Morton via press release, who has published several scientific papers on the spread of piscine reovirus in BC, “I have to do what I can to try to stop this virus from spreading.”

On March 22, 2018, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law to phase out Atlantic salmon farms.

Marine Harvest published a press release of its own on its website, stating, “The Court’s Order and Reasons confirm Marine Harvest’s Swanson Island salmon farm has been operating for many years (28) under compliance with Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) requirement for transfers of fish during that period of time. Mr. Justice Manson also noted that ‘Marine Harvest has maintained dialogue with the Applicant…requesting meetings to share data and production plans, stewardship, facility observations and collaborative research.’

Marine Harvest confirmed it will continue to seek engagement with the ‘Namgis First Nation to find collaborative solutions and a pathway forward.

– with files from Canadian Press

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