‘Namgis First Nation will not be appealing a March 23 federal court decision to deny an injunction that would prevent the restocking of Swanson Island fish farm. In a March 28th press release, ‘Namgis First Nation stated it will instead, “Build on the court’s findings when continuing with its application for judicial review of DFO’s policy not to test for Piscine Reo Virus (PRV).”
“The Minister ignored findings of fact, barges ahead and issued the licence anyway,” said ‘Namgis Chief Don Svanvik in the release. “The Minister has not fulfilled the honour of the crown. He acted with complete disregard for our rights and interests. What little faith our community had in the honour of the Crown has been shattered.”
The ‘Namgis release states that Justice Michael Manson found that “the way Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the aquaculture industry conduct themselves with respect to PRV constitutes a serious risk of irreparable harm on a number of fronts including; impacts to severely depleted salmon stocks; and impacts to indigenous rights to fish.”
In the 41-page decision, Justice Manson said there is a “real and non-speculative likelihood of harm” but also denied the injunction on the transfer because the smolts were maturing and required transfer to a saltwater environment.
The decision stated that “’Namigs met with representatives from Marine Harvest on Dec.21 2017 and was told that Marine Harvest planned to restock the Swanson Island facility in March or April of 2017.”
Marine Harvest stated in the affidavit provided to Justice Manson that if they had to transfer the smolts to another location it would result in $2.1 million in damages.
“In any discussion we have had with Marine Harvest, they have always said they would proceed despite our objections and concerns, We had also written to the minister expressly saying that any decision to grant the licence would be vulnerable to legal challenge,” said Svanvik in the release, adding, “It seems clear to me that economic interests of the fish farm industry are more important to the Minister and to the courts than the protection of wild salmon and the indigenous rights of our people.”
In a March 23 press release, Marine Harvest said the Court Order Confirmed Marine Harvest’s Swanson Island salmon farm has been operating for 28 years under compliance with DFO requirements for transfers of fish during that period of time.
Ian Roberts, Marine Harvest Director of Communications, said the company will continue to seek engagement with the ‘Namgis First Nation.
“We have always expressed our interests in short term and long term solutions which may include relocation of the farm,” said Roberts. “If they had sat and had meaningful discussions with us we would have talked about those options but they have always refused to meet with us and talk about short term and long term solutions.”
Marine Harvest has since proceeded with the restocking of the Swanson Island fish farm site.
“We have the permit to stock and are restocking.” said Roberts, adding, “They have the right to peaceful protest but we have the right to operate our business and we are permitted by Canada and by the province.”
In the conclusion of his decision, Justice Manson said that the ‘Namgis’ “underlying application for judicial review should proceed as expeditiously as possible.”