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BC Court Rules Salmon Farms Over Territorial Rights of First Nations

By August 2, 2018No Comments

Despite salmon farms being in First Nation Territories, BC Court grants injunction in favor of mega-corporation Marine Harvest, demanding First Nations to stay away from fish farms.

August 2nd, 2018 [Vancouver, BC] – Today Justice Maisonville ruled that only Alexandra Morton can continue sampling close to salmon farms, but only in a boat that is 2.6m long, which is a vessel so tiny it is unsafe to operate in the marine waters of the BC coast.

As a result, Marine Harvest lost their bid to keep Morton away from their farms, but in a shocking omission the judge failed to recognize the rights of First Nations. “I am really disturbed by the failure of the court to explicitly recognize the rights of First Nations,” says Morton who is adopted by two local Nations, “I will use the rights I have been granted to sample on behalf of the nations who are fighting so hard to save wild salmon from salmon farms.”  This decision pertains only to the injunction, the judge left the larger decision on the rights of First Nations for the actual hearing.

In her affidavit, Alexandra Morton, a scientist and advocate for wild salmon, stated that Marine Harvest does not share adequate information on the infectious health status of the salmon in their farms and so it in the public interest to allow scientists access to the water immediately outside the farms. The Province of BC issues a Licence of Occupation for each farm, but these tenures do not grant exclusive occupancy, and only apply to the seafloor, not the water. The right to unrestricted movement of boats on the ocean extends back 500 years to the Magna Carta.

For the past month Morton has been aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s research vessel Martin Sheen collecting samples of farm salmon waste pouring out of the farms in her continuing research on impact of salmon farms. Morton is particularly concerned about the highly controversial piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) that is at the core of two lawsuits to be heard in September. She has published three scientific papers on this virus.

Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson commented on the ruling “I am not surprised by the verdict. B.C. Courts have a long tradition of siding with corporate interests against the interests of First Nations and environmentalists. I have to say I was deeply impressed with the evidence presented showing just how dedicated, heroic and passionate the First Nations people have been in their defense of wild salmon in their own traditional territories against this invasive wealthy Norwegian industry assaulting indigenous Pacific salmon species with their introduction of an exotic alien predator into an eco-system it does not belong.” Adding “It is however gratifying to see that Marine Harvest lost with the one thing they were most concerned with. The court has ruled that Dr. Alexandra Morton can lawfully take samples for scientific research purposes inside the restricted zone that bars all First Nations people from entering.”

“I consider it legitimate and important to document and expose the disease contamination released by salmon farms into BC waters,” says Alexandra Morton. “Government seems afraid of this industry and thus is allowing the biggest ongoing industrial spill in the history of BC. DFO has left it up to scientists to measure the impact of salmon farming and Marine Harvest is doing everything they can to stop this work. I am so pleased Justice Maisonville has made a ruling that will allow this research to continue.”

However, Marine Harvest seems unhappy with the research by Morton and other scientists aboard the Sea Shepherd research vessel Martin Sheen. Since early July, Marine Harvest has hired Black Cube Strategy and Consulting which is following the scientists in vessels with blacked out windows, bristling with cameras. They follow the research team farm from farms, at anchor and when they are tied up at the dock in towns. This company is immersed in controversy of falsifying evidence, including trying to intimidate and disqualified victims from Harvey Weinstein.

Meanwhile, the government-to-government talks continue between the Province of BC and First Nations of the Broughton Archipelago on the fate of the 20 salmon farm tenures that expired there on June 20th. As well, Marine Harvest is facing three additional lawsuits.

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