The DFO is closing 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands.

Cermaq Canada ponders next move after court loss

Cermaq Canada is expected to announce its next move this week after legal action to force Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to let it stock salmon in two sites earmarked for closure failed.

Published Last updated

The fish farmer had applied for an injunction against the DFO’s ruling, which follows a decision by fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan not to renew licences for 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia. The farms must close by June 30 next year.  

The minister’s decision, which 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 despite the DFO’s own scientists saying farms pose less than a “minimal” threat..

Cermaq had, 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.

Perplexing decision

Announcing legal action towards the end of last month, Cermaq Canada managing director David Kiemele said the company was “perplexed and disappointed” by the DFO’s decision to refuse transfer permits.

“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,” said Kiemele.

He 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 would have long-reaching social and financial implications for employees and dozens of local, independent suppliers, contractors, businesses, and service providers.

Changing the rules

In April, Mowi Canada West won an injunction against a Discovery Islands transfer ban imposed by the DFO, ordering Jordan to reconsider her decision. In response, Jordan doubled the time the DFO was allowed to take to approve a transfer permit from 20 to 40 days. This made a move to the Discovery Islands 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.