ALERT BAY – An appeal has been filed to overturn a B.C.Supreme Court decision that supported a First Nations claim that fish farms interfere with aboriginal fishing rights.
Representatives of the Attorneys General of Canada and British Columbia have filed appeals to overturn a decision by Supreme Court Justice Slade.
Slade’s 87-page decision Dec. 1 supported the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-Kwa-Mish First Nation’s (KAFN) application for certification of their class-action related to the interference with aboriginal fishing rights allegedly caused by open net-cage salmon farming in their Broughton Archipelago territories.
Bob Chamberlin, representative plaintiff and KAFN Chief, expressed deep frustration and disappointment with the actions of both governments.
“The class-action lawsuit seeks to answer questions First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago have known the answers to for some time, but governments have failed to listen,” said Chamberlin in a press release. “We have turned to the courts to ask for a fair determination as to the extent that open net-pen salmon aquaculture has impacted wild salmon stocks in the Broughton Archipelago; and whether the Province’s authorization and regulation of salmon aquaculture has caused the impact.”
Chamberlin hoped the fight to protect aboriginal fisheries had been settled.
“With certification of the class-action, we hoped that a long history of government delay, denial and distraction to avoid these questions would come to an end,” said Chamberlin. “I am saddened, but not surprised at all to learn that the federal and provincial governments have chosen the path of more legal bills and delays over a sustainable fishery, fairness and progress on this important issue. These attempts to overturn Justice Slade’s carefully-reasoned decision are bad for the wild salmon, bad for First Nations and bad for the citizens of British Columbia.”
Chamberlin believes salmon stocks are at risk.
“Today, when juvenile pink and chum salmon in our territories attempt to migrate out to the ocean, they face a gauntlet of open net-cage salmon farms, densely stocked with Atlantic salmon, which are breeding grounds for parasitic sea lice and disease,” said Chamberlin. “This is unacceptable. The health of our wild salmon populations is fundamental to our way of life and is a keystone of our cultural practices.
“We are open to doing the right thing and will work with the federal and provincial governments to resolve the fisheries crisis and the class-action, before time runs out for the salmon in our territories,” Chamberlin concluded.