Testing farmed salmon for Piscine Reovirus (PRV) prior to transferring them to the ocean is a crucial measure in the protection of wild salmon in British Columbia.
We are back in Federal Court with our client, Alexandra Morton, to protect wild salmon in British Columbia from heart-damaging disease.
Taking the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to court over salmon protection is nothing new for us, or for Alexandra, an independent biologist who has studied salmon for 30 years. We first teamed up with Alexandra in 2015 when we successfully argued that the Minister could not delegate his regulatory responsibilities to the same fish farm companies he is supposed to oversee.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story. Despite several warnings, the Minister is still not fulfilling his duty to protect wild fish and our oceans.
The Minister has an illegal policy and practice of issuing licences allowing farmed salmon to be transferred into net pens in the ocean without being tested for PRV. This practice contravenes Section 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations which states that the Minister cannot issue a transfer licence if the fish to be transferred “have any disease or disease agent that may be harmful to the protection and conservation of fish.”
Scientists report that PRV is associated with Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), a disease that weakens salmon to the point that they can barely swim. The disease HSMI was first identified in Norway in 1999 and rapidly spread throughout fish farms there. In 2013, Alexandra co-authored a scientific paper reporting that the strain of PRV in B.C. is from Norway. The virus was not discovered here until 2010, so none of the 30 million Atlantic farm salmon eggs imported to B.C. were screened for the virus.
Why is Ecojustice involved?
We think the Minister’s actions are illegal. And we believe that government should take a precautionary approach when issuing transfer licences for farmed salmon to protect wild salmon.
Wild salmon are vital to ecosystems, the coastal economy, and First Nations communities. With wild salmon runs hitting the lowest they have been in more than 100 years, this case is now more important than ever.
What would a win mean?
A successful outcome will require the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to test for PRV before issuing a transfer licence for farm fish heading to net pens in the ocean.
The Fishery (General) Regulations outlines strong regulatory preconditions that must be met prior to the Minister issuing a transfer licence. We want those met moving forward, and for the Minister to fulfill his obligation to protect and conserve wild salmon.