First Nation Stops Atlantic Salmon Transfers

December 28, 2004MEDIA RELEASE
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered Marine Harvest, the fish-farming arm of the Dutch multi-national Nutreco, to stop putting Atlantic salmon smolts into its pens at the mouth of Bute Inlet.

Peter Grant, legal counsel for the Homalco First Nation, based the application for the injunction before Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield of the B.C. Supreme Court on the Provincial government’s failure to consult Homalco when the company applied to amend its Church House fish farm license to stock Atlantic salmon. The site, which is located directly in front of the band’s traditional village and reserve known as Church House, is at the mouth of Bute Inlet and on the migration route of wild salmon that spawn in Southgate, Homathco and Orford Rivers in Bute Inlet.

Chief Darren Blaney explained lack of real consultation. “Although Marine Harvest applied for the Atlantic salmon species amendment in April of this year, we weren’t notified until July. Homalco was in the process of responding to the Province when they informed us last Friday [December 17th] that they had approved the amendment. I found out about 10 minutes before our office closed for Christmas holidays. They faxed in this notice saying they’ve granted this application from Marine Harvest. And meanwhile, Marine Harvest, according to what I’m told from them, they’ve known about it since December 8, almost nine days before we found out.”

In fact, Marine Harvest had started moving Atlantic salmon in the day after the permit was issued and neither the Province nor Marine Harvest informed Homalco of what they were doing until the Court action was commenced on December 22nd.

Mr. Justice Pitfield ruled that, in light of the Haida decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, the circumstances surrounding the Province’s conduct with respect to consultation to move Atlantic salmon so close to the mouth of Bute Inlet demonstrates that there is a good prima facie case for Homalco to argue that they were not properly consulted. He also found that there could be irreparable harm as a result of moving Atlantic salmon into a watershed such as the Bute Inlet and that this irreparable harm should be avoided until a full hearing on the duty to consult was held in January.

On December 24th, 2004, Justice Pitfield granted the Homalco an interim injunction, ordering Marine Harvest to halt Atlantic salmon transfers to the Church House site and remove any fish put there after the Homalco filed its action on December 22. Marine Harvest is required to file an Affidavit by January 7th setting out the amount of Atlantic salmon that they moved into the site between December 22 and 24th and is required to remove those salmon “forthwith” from the Church House site.

In addition to the interim injunction, Mr. Justice Pitfield also ordered a judicial review of the process that led to the approval of the Church House site in the fall of 2002. The five-day hearing will commence January 24.

“The Church House site has not been without its controversies,” said Eric Blueschke, Local Outreach Coordinator for the Georgia Strait Alliance. “We look forward to the results of the judicial review process,” Blueschke stated.

The Homalco First Nation and the Georgia Strait Alliance signed protocol agreement in April aimed at restoring and protecting Bute Inlet and its surounding waters. The Georgia Strait Alliance is a non-profit marine conservation organization.