Campaigner loses appeal against Mowi court order

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Anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford has lost his appeal against a Sheriff Court order barring him from Mowi’s farm sites in Scotland.

Staniford has for many years used covertly filmed video and photography of fish farming sites to back up his argument that finfish aquaculture is damaging to the environment and to the fish being farmed. His typical approach has been to row to the farms by kayak at dawn before staff arrive on site.

Mowi Scotland had sought an interdict under Scottish law to prevent Staniford from trespassing on 47 named farms and their equipment, or approaching within 15 metres of those sites, and in October last year this was granted by Sheriff Andrew Berry at the Sheriffdom of North Strathclyde at Oban.

The Sheriff Appeal Court (SAC) published its decision today, rejecting Staniford’s grounds for appeal. These were that that the sheriff “went beyond the admitted facts”, that he “failed to apply the correct test for interdict”, and that he “failed to recognise the full extent of the defender’s freedom to navigate”.

The SAC ruled that the test for interdict had been correctly applied, observing: “An award of perpetual interdict does not require harm to be established. Interdict is available to prevent unlawful conduct. The pursuer has a right of ownership in the structure of the marine farms, extending to the whole of the structure. It is entitled, as of right, to prevent the defender entering upon or interfering with the structures.”

Don Staniford

The court also ruled that Don Staniford’s right of navigation had not been infringed by the Sheriff Court’s order, since: “The defender enjoys all the public rights of navigation which he would otherwise have if the marine farms were not present.”

Mowi’s counsel did, however, agree to remove a line in the original interdict barring Staniford from flying drones over Mowi’s farm sites, and also to remove the requirement that he must not approach within 15 metres of any of the sites in question.

The new order interdicts Staniford from “…boarding, entering onto, physically occupying, attaching himself to or attaching vessels to all structures, docks, walkways, buildings, floats or pens” of the salmon aquaculture sites listed.

He is also prevented from “…instructing procuring or facilitating others to so act” although the term “encouraging” others has also been dropped.

Don Staniford said after the decision was published: “I will be reviewing the judgment with my legal team – including any options for an appeal – and will respond in due course.”

Mowi said the permanent interdict would achieve the objectives of protecting the wellbeing of its staff, the safety of those working on its equipment, its property and its product from the illegal actions of the defendant.

Ben Hadfield, Chief Operating Officer, Mowi Scotland, commented: “While our company will listen to and engage with people who may be critical of our business, we will not stand by and accept individuals harassing and intimidating our employees at their workplace. After repeated requests not to do so, we had sought this interdict to protect the safety and wellbeing of our employees, our fish, our property and Mr Staniford and his associates, and we are pleased that the court has agreed, again, with Mowi’s position.”

Mowi is not the only salmon farmer seeking legal protection against the activist. In November, Scottish Sea Farms started legal proceedings for a similar interdiction, and in the same month Bakkafrost sent a warning to the campaigner, via its solicitors Shepherd & Wedderburn, requesting that the campaigner stops trespassing on its sites and taking clandestine video footage.

This article was updated on 15 March 2024.

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