Legal battle looms over farms shutdown

Mowi and Cermaq are taking the Canadian government to court over its decision to force the closure of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands region of British Columbia.
Mowi’s subsidiary, Mowi Canada West, has applied to the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver for judicial review of the decisions made by Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in December 2020 regarding licenses for salmon farms in the Discovery Islands area. Mowi is asking the courts to find the decisions unreasonable and to set them aside.
Jordan’s decision prohibits the issuance of new or replacement aquaculture licences for aquaculture sites and prohibit any fish being transferred into aquaculture sites within the Discovery Islands area. They are part of a policy decision by the minister to end net pen salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June 30, 2022.
The company said: “Approximately 13 – 15 Mowi farms are impacted. The exact number is not known as the minister has not provided a precise listing of the affected farms, nor any details or plans beyond her initial announcement.
“The decisions and related timelines and lack of precision are unreasonable, and threaten the viability of all Mowi’s operations in British Columbia.”
Cermaq, which also operates net pen farms in the area, has also applied for a judicial review of the decision. The company said: “Part of the DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] decision was that Cermaq would not be able to stock our sites in the Discovery Islands region with fish, although these sites would be licensed until 2022. This decision will have immediate and detrimental effects. Before those effects are felt by Cermaq, its employees, suppliers, and customers, Cermaq believes that time for engagement should be provided, which means allowing the stocking of the sites in this interim period.”
The company points out that its three farms in the Discovery Islands region account for 20% of its Canadian operations, and also that plans to stock two of the sites are well under way already. The government’s decision therefore leaves those fish “in limbo”, Cermaq added.
Cermaq has been careful to point out that its legal challenge applies to the DFO decision and stressed: “We respect the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region… Cermaq’s goal is to allow time for engagement with the local First Nations to examine opportunities to achieve mutually beneficial agreements.”