Covington, Washington—On April 22, Canada’s Federal Court ruled that the cancellation of fish farm leases in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia not only breached procedural fairness but also failed to follow the best available science as provided by nine separate Canadian government-commissioned studies.
In response to this latest court ruling, the Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA) is calling on policymakers in the Pacific Northwest to follow the growing body of evidence showing that fish farming in marine waters has little to no negative impact on marine life, as a recently issued NOAA biological opinion makes clear.
“We are heartened by the fact that, yet another high court has rejected the outrageous and unproven claims of anti-fish farming, fearmongering activist groups,” said Jim Parsons, NWAA President and CEO of Jamestown Seafood. “We are also heartened to see that, in her 66-page ruling, Justice Elizabeth Heneghan has singled out the ‘absence of reasons’ for the sudden, capricious, and harmful order delivered by former Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan to shut down salmon farming in the Discovery Islands,” he noted.
“This latest high court ruling follows on the heels of the Washington State Supreme Court’s landmark 9-0 ruling that essentially debunked the claims of anti-farming activists by allowing one of our member companies, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, to farm Pacific Steelhead trout in Washington State waters,” Parsons said. “Given this growing body of clear and convincing evidence that fish farming has little to no negative impact on marine life, we believe it is time for policymakers in our region to follow the science. For sure,” he added, “the courts are paying attention.”
The Canadian court ruling makes it clear that then-Minister Jordan disregarded her own government’s scientists, Parsons said, adding that the Court ruling points to a “failure of the Minister to provide reasons in her Decision of December 16, 2020,” which “amounts to a breach of procedural fairness. The consequences of the Decision in this case are significant and the Minister owed a duty to provide reasons,” writes Justice Heneghan. She makes it clear that the Discovery Island decision, “in the absence or reasons, cannot be justified. In the absence of reasons, it is not transparent. In the absence of reasons, it is not intelligible,” she ruled.
“The scientific record and the courts are clear,” said Parsons. “The ill-informed and deep-pocket anti-fish farming activist groups that continue to use fear-mongering tactics are just plain wrong. Marine farms provide much needed locally produced healthy seafood, great jobs, much-needed rural economic benefits and should be celebrated, not vilified,” he added.