Federal Court strikes down policy not to test smolt for PRV before being transported

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Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson must reconsider the policy within four months.

The 201-page ruling, released on Monday, pitted anti-fish farm advocate Alexandra Morton and the ‘Namgis First Nation against the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Marine Harvest and Cermaq Canada.

Anti-salmon farming
Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, was acting on behalf of anti-salmon the farming advocate.

The ruling that was overturned was a policy that smolts do not have to be tested for Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) or Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in order for fish farmers to release them into open-water aquaculture pens.

Ecojustice lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith said in a press release: “Piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV, is highly contagious and highly prevalent in fish farms off the B.C. coast, many of which are positioned along wild salmon migration routes.

“Wild salmon are in serious decline in B.C. In striking down the Minister’s PRV policy, the court has made it clear that the Minister must take a precautionary, science-based approach to helping wild salmon survive and recover, she added.

Federal Court decision
In the Vancouver Sun, according to a statement from Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson, the ministry was reviewing the Federal Court decision. Wilkinson must reconsider the policy within four months.

“Our government understands that a strong, science-based approach to regulating the aquaculture industry is essential and that is why we have and will continue to conduct extensive research which informs our policies and regulations,” the statement said.

Shawn Hall, the spokesman for B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said the group had just received the decision and was reviewing it.

“Supporting good science into the health of both wild and farm-raised salmon and working closely with First Nations and coastal communities are cornerstones of responsible salmon farming in B.C.”

PRV virus is ubiquitous
In March 2018, Mowi Canada wrote in response to ‘Namgis First Nation application for judicial review and injunction:

“Erenst (Vincent Erenst, Managing Director of Marine Harvest Canada) added that despite scientific findings that the PRV virus is ubiquitous and occurs naturally in many ocean fish, out of caution the company did test the smolts it is transferring for PRV, and found they do not have the virus. PRV is not listed by DFO as a disease or pathogen of regional, national, or international concern. As required by the transfer licence, the salmon destined for Swanson farm have recently been screened for health by third-party laboratories and confirmed disease-free and healthy.”