Ripple effect: Browns Bay Packing Company in Campbell River is one of four aquaculture service companies suing Canada's current and former fisheries ministers Joyce Murray and Bernadette Jordan for millions of dollars in damages following the closure of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands.

Salmon sector service companies join legal fight against Discovery Islands shutdown


Four companies which provide supplies and services to the aquaculture industry in British Columbia, Canada, are suing the country’s federal government for losses amounting to tens of millions of dollars stemming from two ministerial decisions to shut down salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, reports SeaWest News.

The companies allege that current fisheries minister Joyce Murray and her predecessor Bernadette Jordan “wilfully engaged” in making the “unlawful decisions” while being aware at all times that the actions would harm the companies and their employees.

Murray, Jordan and the Attorney General are named as defendants in the lawsuit brought by Aquatrans Distributors Inc., Browns Bay Packing Company Ltd, and Sure Cold Refrigerated Storage Inc. A separate lawsuit was filed by the Indigenous-owned J W Walkus Fishing Company.

Procedural breaches

The decision to close 19 open-net salmon farms in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands was made in 2020 by Jordan.

Last April, the Federal Court ordered the government to set aside the decision due to procedural breaches by Jordan, and reaffirmed an earlier ruling that all the evidence provided showed that salmon aquaculture in BC poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.

Current fisheries minister Murray then ordered consultations with the stakeholders to meet the procedural requirements before making the same decision as her predecessor earlier this year.

Both ministers disregarded evidence from scientists in their own Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who found in 10 studies that the farms had minimal impact on the wild salmon migrating through the area.

Transition plan

Murray and her officials are also working on a plan to transition salmon farming in BC from the open-net pen method to something that will reduce interaction with wild fish. The plan is expected to be finalized within weeks.

Murray’s decision not to renew licences in the Discovery Islands is also being challenged by salmon farmers Mowi Canada West, Cermaq Canada Ltd, and Grieg Seafood BC Ltd, and the Wai Kum First Nation (Campbell River Indian Band) and We Wai Kai First Nation (Cape Mudge Indian Band).

The Discovery Islands decision has shut down more than 24% of BC’s farmed salmon production and led to numerous job losses.