August 21, 2003 – For immediate release
Victoria, BC — It is outrageous that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has failed to lay charges for damaging the habitat of a threatened species against a company that illegally stocked a salmon farm north of Port Hardy, the Georgia Strait Alliance said today.
“Well over a year ago, the Omega Salmon Group violated the federal Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the federal government has done absolutely nothing about it,” said Suzanne Connell, Georgia Strait Alliance program coordinator.
“Omega was fined just $5,500 in BC provincial court after the province laid charges for operating a salmon farm without a license, but this amount is ridiculous when you consider the fine could have been as high as half a million dollars,” she added.
The farm operated illegally above prime abalone habitat for nearly two months from March to May 2002. DFO found that the operation harmed abalone beds below the site. Abalone is a threatened species under Canada’s Species At Risk Act and a ban on abalone fishing has existed for over a decade.
“Considering that Omega faced a maximum penalty of $10,000 a day for violating provincial fisheries law during the period of March 13 to May 8, 2002, it is incredible that they have only been fined $5,500. Such minimal fines do nothing to deter companies from breaking the law,” Connell said.
The Georgia Strait Alliance is a marine conservation organization that works to preserve and protect the Georgia Strait and its adjoining waters. The group is a member of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) – a coalition of conservation and First Nations groups working to protect the ocean and humans from detrimental impacts from salmon farming. For more information visit www.farmedanddangerous.org