Océans en santé. Communautés en santé

Court’s decision suspending the ban on fish transfers to three Discovery Islands salmon farms could be a poor outcome for wild salmon

April 6, 2021
Minister must make new decisions on fish transfer licences before fish can go into Discovery Island salmon farms.


Today the Federal Court of Canada suspended Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan’s policy to prohibit restocking of three fish farms in the Discovery Islands. This means two fish farm companies can apply for licenses to continue stocking three sites on this critical migration route. The David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch Salmon Society and independent biologist Alexandra Morton, who were represented by Ecojustice in this case, are disappointed with this decision. Scientific research shows that farming salmon in open net-pens can put wild salmon at risk.  

Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society:

“The key to the judge’s decision in this case is his observation, “The only evidence before me is that today, salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses “no more than a minimal risk” to wild salmon.” The reason he had no evidence of harm before him is that senior departmental officials chose not to place that evidence before the Minister, so it is not part of the court record. DFO’s purported ‘risk assessments’ of the harm to Fraser River sockeye cannot stand for the proposition that salmon farms pose no more than a minimal risk of harm to wild salmon.”

Kilian Stehfest, Marine Conservation Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation

“This decision undermines the minister’s phase-out plan, overturns the will of First Nations in the area and puts declining wild salmon populations at risk. It is critical that Fisheries and Oceans Canada exercises its authority to reject any applications for the transfer of fish into the Discovery Islands despite this decision.”

Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director at Georgia Strait Alliance:

"The science is not debatable. It shows that fish farms cause serious harm, introducing pathogens and waste into the marine environment of migrating wild salmon, including Chinook—the main food source for endangered Southern Resident orcas. This decision undermines the agreement between the Crown and seven Indigenous Nations, and it could continue to put wild salmon at risk."

Stan Proboszcz, Science Advisor for Watershed Watch Salmon Society:

“Despite this disappointing court decision, we look forward to the removal of all salmon farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022. Although the judge granted this injunction to the companies, they still have to apply for fish transfers into the area and the Minister can still refuse them. I urge the Minister of Fisheries to do exactly that, please refuse these fish farm transfers.” 

Alexandra Morton, independent biologist:

Suing the minister to restock farms where seven First Nations have asked them to leave is not a good look for an industry that will require First Nation support to renew federal salmon farm licences throughout BC in June 2022.





Karen Wristen, Executive Director, Living Oceans Society 604-788-5634

kwristen [at] livingoceans.org



Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, founded in 1990. We collaborate with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. Our mission is to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future. Our vision is that we all act every day on the understanding that we are one with nature. Through our digital communications channels, we reach a community of more than one million people throughout Canada. We operate in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Georgia Strait Alliance has been focussed for more than 30 years on protecting and restoring the marine environment through long-term, climate-forward solutions to marine threats and habitat protection, and to promoting the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters, and communities.

Living Oceans works to ensure that Canada's oceans are sustainably managed and thriving with abundant and diverse sea life that supports vibrant and resilient communities. It has maintained a campaign to reform open-net pen aquaculture for over 20 years.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society is a science-based charity working to defend and rebuild B.C.’s wild salmon.

Alexandra Morton is an independent biologist who has dedicated her life to restoring the balance between the people and the wild salmon off the coast of British Columbia.