Marine Harvest to appeal B.C. ruling

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
March 9, 2009

Marine Harvest Canada on Monday said it will appeal the British Columbia Supreme Court's February ruling that the federal government, not the provincial government, has jurisdiction over the salmon-farming industry. The court also ruled that fish inside farms are to be regulated as a fishery, not an agricultural crop, thereby eliminating any private rights to the waters in use.
 
The Norwegian company, the world's largest salmon farmer, said the court failed to recognize salmon farmers' private property rights. Marine Harvest represents roughly half of British Columbia's annual farmed salmon production of about 80,000 metric tons.
 
"Our concern is the failure of the court to recognize that the salmon we raise and harvest are the property of Marine Harvest," said Clare Backman, Marine Harvest's director of environmental relations. "The court's characterization of these fish as a 'fishery' is, in our view, incorrect."
 
"We have control over the entire lifecycle of our salmon. We raise the parents, hatch the eggs and then feed and care for them in captivity for about three years. We then harvest these fish directly from the pens they are raised in," added Backman. "This is clearly not a 'public fishery' as anglers, commercial fishermen or the public may understand it. Domesticated creatures like farm-raised salmon are private property and are not part of the fishery as a public resource."
 
The B.C. Supreme Court is expected to hear the appeal this summer.
 
Lead petitioner Alexandra Morton, a marine biologist and environmental activist, said in February that the court's ruling means the government agency in charge of fish farms will put the interests of wild salmon first. Morton has long criticized salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago area north of Vancouver Island for their impact on wild salmon stocks.
 
Marine Harvest has committed to operational changes, including migration corridors in the Broughton Archipelago, to limit the farms' impact on wild stocks.
 
Co-petitioners in the suit included the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society, the Wilderness Tourism Association, the Southern Area Gillnetters Association and the Fishing Vessel Owners' Association of British Columbia.

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