Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Every salmon should have its day in court

It was Victory day for the provinces Wild Salmon and their supporters on Monday, as the BC Supreme Court rendered its decision on the fate of fish farming in the province, effectively taking control of the industry from the provincial government and offering it to the Federal level for proper regulation and maintenance.

It is a decision that advocates of Wild Salmon are hoping will help the species begin to swim back to a healthier levels, that after the Courts determined that the province, which is a proponent of fish farming, has been regulating the industry without authority for twenty years.

The decision will be a blow to the Campbell government in particular, which has been very proactive in the fish farm industry over the last number of years, expanding the scope of the industry in southern coastal waters, at the same time as many were sounding the alarms about problems in the industry and the impact that the industry was having on the wild stocks of the province.

Local MLA Gary Coons has long had concerns about the aqua culture industry, especially when it came to the proposed expansion northwards towards North Coast waters, frequently taking the cause up in the Legislature and seeking answers from the Provincial government.

But by far it has been Alexandra Morton who was the key figure in the charge against the aquaculture industry in the province, the anti fish farm activist having led the fight for a number of years now. Monday's decision provides a sense of vindication for her long held position and quest for accountability on the issue.

She appeared on the Bill Good show on CKNW on Wednesday morning, outlining the work her group performed in preparation for the court case and how she believes the decision will change the dynamic on the coast. Her segment was from 10:30 to 11 am, you can listen via the audio vault player or by podcast (when segment is uploaded).

The court decision was the feature of many Vancouver based news articles this week as the discussion expanded from the decision to what comes next.

The decision of the courts comes on the heels of a report from the British Columbia Pacific Salmon Forum, which called for better environmental protection on behalf of the provincial government.
With the events of Monday that call will be now have to be re-directed, pending any dramatic developments it would appear that the aqua culture industry is about to find a new sheriff in town, a Federal one, no doubt supporters of the wild salmon will be watching to see if there is a change of direction to come from that change.

Monday's Daily News had details of the now apparently redundant Forum report, which while suddenly out of date, still provides some important feedback, some of which the Federal Government once they take control of the industry may wish to examine and consult all stakeholders over.

Eco groups welcome salmon report's insights
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, February 09, 2009
Page one and three

Defenders of wild salmon have mixed reactions to the latest report on West Coast salmon that was delivered by a provincial think-tank, most notably, they have been reacting to the proposed reforms to aquaculture management practices contained in the report.

The new report released by the British Columbia Pacific Salmon Forum has generated a great deal of feedback since becoming public last week, most notably from conservation groups that believe the recommendations support what they have been telling the provincial government for years.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform commended the PSF for the long-awaited report saying it was pleased to see that the think-tank acknowledges the problems created by open net-cage salmon farms and calls for better environmental protection on behalf of the provincial government.

"With the usual state of denial, disinterest, and inaction, it's gratifying to finally see recognition of sea lice impacts," said Craig Orr of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

"Now, we need action, given the extremely dire state of Broughton pink and chum wild salmon."

However, the CAAR member groups did note serious concern, particularly with the forum's proposal for an Ecosystem Based Management approach for watersheds and marine environments, because the model is heavily dependent on full cooperation between the provincial and federal governments.

CAAR is also critical of the forum's proposed use of Coordinate Area Management Plans (CAMP) for salmon farms, because it was only designed to be a temporary measure to protect wild juvenile salmon until a lasting and ecologically sound technology is adopted by the industry.

"While we welcome many of the forum's recommendations, they are only proposals," said Catherine Stewart of Living Oceans Society.

"Nothing is going to change unless the provincial and federal governments take strong and immediate action to address the threats posed by salmon farms.

"This report is a call to action. The question now is whether it will gather dust alongside all the previous aquaculture recommendations."

Also concerned that the B.C. government will not act on the forum's recommendations is marine biologist Alexandra Morton, who has studied and documented the negative effects salmon farms have had on wild salmon stocks in the Broughton Archipelago.

Morton acknowledges the report is full of good recommendations, but believes Premier Gordon Campbell could follow the recommendations and not change anything where it counts.

"There is no need to spend time building public confidence. That will come on a performance basis, when our fish revive we could become more relaxed about the corporate fish," said Morton.

"I really support the recommendation that the public be given access to the disease and drug records on the farms as these farms are in the public's waters. We are the landlords and need to know what drugs are ending up where so we can avoid them.

"When fishermen are suspected of killing a wild salmon stock, fishing is reduced. The same principle needs to be applied to fish farms."

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