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David Kiemele:
David Kiemele: "We are both disappointed and perplexed about the decision by the Minister". Photo: Cermaq Canada.

Cermaq Canada has initiated legal action to challenge a ban on the transfer of fish to two of its sites in the Discovery Islands (DI) in British Columbia.

In December, Canadian fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced that 19 DI fish farms must close by June 30, 2022 and followed that up by announcing a ban on the transfer of fish to those sites.

The minister’s decision, which has left salmon farmers with nowhere to grow out smolts from their hatcheries, followed consultations with the area’s First Nations who believe fish farming is a cause of a decline in wild salmon populations.

Cermaq has, however, reached agreement with the Wei Wai Kum First Nation for the transfer and grow-out of a final generation of salmon at its Brent Island and Venture Point farms situated in the Nation’s territory.

Perplexed

“We are both disappointed and perplexed about the decision by the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to decline two Introduction and Transfer permits, for our Venture Point and Brent Island farms,” said Cermaq Canada managing director David Kiemele in a statement.

“This displays a lack of acknowledgement of the rights of the Wei Wai Kum Nation to make decisions regarding their core territory and does not reconciliate the agreement that Cermaq has entered into with Wei Wai Kum.”

Kiemele said the transfer ban would not allow for the humane grow out of one final cycle of fish at each of the farms, as planned, and have long-reaching social and financial implications for employees and dozens of local, independent suppliers, contractors, businesses, and service providers

Legal action

“After much careful consideration, earlier this week Cermaq took further legal action to challenge the recent denial of Brent Island and Venture Point transfer applications and licence extensions,” added Kiemele.

“Cermaq will continue to work with the Wei Wai Kum Nation through a reconciliation process.

“As this is before the courts, we will not be providing any additional comments or information at this time.”

Judicial review

Along with the legal action announced this week, Cermaq is one of four BC salmon farmers that have applied for a judicial review of Jordan’s December decision to close the DI farms. The others are Mowi Canada West, Grieg Seafood BC and chinook salmon farmer Saltstream.

In April, Mowi Canada West won an injunction against a DI transfer ban imposed by the DFO, ordering Jordan to reconsider her decision. In response, Jordan moved the goalposts by doubling the time the DFO was allowed to take to approve a transfer permit from 20 to 40 days. This made a move to the DI sites impossible in the time Mowi had available before it had to vacate a nursery site in the Broughton Archipelago under a separate closure agreement.

Mowi was able to rehome 600,000 post-smolts with an average weight of 700g elsewhere in the Broughton, thanks to an agreement with three First Nations there, but more than 3 million hatchery fish were due to be culled.