Court finds salmon farming in British Columbia a federal, not local matter; impact seen as likely to lead to greater protections for “salmon nation”
by Craig Weatherby
Salmon feed a major part of the northwest coast, reaching inland and fueling an ecosystem rightly called “salmon nation.”
A case filed by local people, including marine biologist Alexandra Morton and her academic colleagues, whose work we’ve championed, has just been won by her side.
These quotes from the Vancouver Sun summarize the news succinctly (Pynn L 2009):
“The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government
—not the province
—has exclusive jurisdiction over the management of salmon farming, a landmark decision hailed as a victory for the future of wild stocks.”
“‘The regulation of fish farming by the province is ultra vires, beyond its power,’ said a triumphant Greg McDade, the lawyer who pursued the case on behalf of sea-lice researcher Alexandra Morton and others.”
In 2007, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science published a paper by Ms. Morton and Canadian university researchers, that documented the existential threat salmon farms pose to wild salmon in Canada’s coastal British Columbia province… sandwiched between southeast Alaska and us here in Washington State.
The presumption—based on mixed but generally encouraging evidence—is that federal Canadian agencies will be better stewards of wild salmon because of strict language in current federal laws, and less political influence related to local demand for fish-farm-related jobs.
To be realistic about the meaning of this win, the Canadian federal government announced last month that it is providing $23.5 million over the next five years to: “…support the development of a vibrant and sustainable Canadian aquaculture industry that contributes to the economies of rural, coastal and First Nations communities” (DFO 2009).
We can only hope that the Canadian feds don’t succumb to short-term employment needs that could be met other ways and whose eco-impacts could destroy many jobs in tourism, recreation, and commercial fishing/processing.
A persistent decline in British Columbia's wild salmon runs would also degrade the wondrous natural web from which healthful, superbly delicious wild Pacific fish flow... and sustain thousands of jobs.
Vital Choices readers are among those she thanks for their concrete support… we encourage your ongoing support:
Below, we’ve reprinted with permission parts of two emails we received from Alexandra Morton.
Ruling announcement from Alexandra Morton
Monday 2/9&10/2009 8:08 PM
Thank you so much for this opportunity. The judge ruled that fish “farms” are really not farms at all; that they are fisheries and that there can be no private fisheries in Canada.
Therefore salmon “farms” are fish populations that must be regulated by the federal government. Privatization of our oceans is a huge issue and this case is an important step in preventing that.
The judge gave the province and the feds 12 months to figure things out. In that time the province may still grant fish farm licenses and amendments, but they would only be good until a year from now.
This is only another step on this path, the province could appeal and drag this on forever at the expense of our salmon, the feds could use another route to give the province fish farms again, but this might be tough with a minority government.
Or maybe Premier Campbell will just breathe a sigh of relief, as destroying the wild salmon is not going to make him all that popular in the upcoming election.
People said this could not be done, but we did it. My lawyer, Greg McDade of Ratcliff and Co., was fantastic, the other petitioners including the Wilderness Tourism Association were essential to making the case stick, West Coast Environmental Law helped get us started, but it was YOU who paid the bill and made this possible.
Thank you all, you are a wonderful group of people so full of great ideas and energy for our salmon.
As for funds. The court has invited us to apply for some portion of the funds we spent and we will, I don't know if this will be successful. If we do not have to go to appeal court, we will start working to form a council in the Broughton to become a model for the coast.
[Editor’s note: “Broughton” is the coastal archipelago where Alexandra Morton lives, and runs her humble but effective Raincoast Research Society.]
Any funds donated will be used to restore wild salmon, be it in the courts or on the grounds.
- Broadcast emails from Adopt-a-Fry (Alexandra Morton), February 9 and 11, 2009.
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). New BC Aquaculture projects to support the Economies of Rural, Coastal and First Nations Communities. January 8, 2009. Accessed at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/npress-communique/2009/pr02-eng.htm
- Pynn L. B.C. loses salmon farm jurisdiction. Vancouver Sun, February 10, 2009. Accessed online at http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=960d484a-eabd-49c4-b988-aa20c962b071