Cermaq and Mowi go to court over Discovery Islands phase out

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Request focuses only on the conduct of DFO.

Salmon companies have applied to the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver for a judicial review of a decision made by Fisheries Minster Bernadette Jordan to phase out fish farms on B.C.’s Discovery Islands, reports the national broadcaster CBC.

In December, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced that it is phasing out existing salmon farming facilities in the Discovery Islands, with the upcoming 18-month period being the last time this area is licenced.

Both Mowi Canada West and Cermaq Canada said that they will have to make cuts to the workforce in light of the loss, a third of production, of 19 farms in the Discovery Islands. Employees have been speaking as part of a “Coastal Jobs Gone” campaign via social media about the loss of jobs.

“The decisions and related timelines and lack of precision are unreasonable, and threaten the viability of the Mowi’s entire operations in British Columbia,” Mowi Canada said in a statement.

At the time, the DFO said that it made the decision after consulting with the Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) and Wei Wai Kum (Campbell River) First Nations. The Department also held discussions with aquaculture industry representatives.

Cermaq Canada told the publication that the request focuses only on the conduct of DFO and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. It added that it “respects the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region.”

President of the national umbrella organisation Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) Mary Robinson, penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in support of the industry in limbo due to the Discovery Islands decision. It is the country’s largest national general farmers’ organisation.

CFA President Mary Robinson. PHOTO: Twitter

In it, she pointed to the Cohen report, saying that: “The nine peer-reviewed studies recently finalised by the Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) at the request of the Cohen Commission [investigating declines in wild salmon] concluded that salmon farms in the Discovery Islands have less than a minimal potential impact on wild salmon. The Cohen Commission’s high test was thus met and surpassed by the salmon farms”.

“Once these valuable jobs and infrastructure are removed, they are very difficult to bring back. Markets served by good Canadian product will quickly be filled by other global production at a great loss for global-leading Canadian sustainable production,” she added.