Washington State prohibits farm salmon virus that Canada ignores
Minister of Fisheries – Regulatory Capture
May 17, 2018 the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced they had denied permission to Cooke Aquaculture for transfer of 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon from a landbased hatchery into marine grow-out pens, because the fish are infected with an Icelandic strain of piscine orthoreovirus (PRV)
Earlier this year Washington State enacted a bill to phase out Atlantic salmon net-pen aquaculture by 2022. Cooke Aquaculture had planned to operate until then, but now has 800,000 smolts they can’t use.
Independent biologist Alexandra Morton has been in court for 5 years to uphold the law against the Canadian Minister of Fisheries, who refuses to screen BC farm salmon for PRV.
In 2015, Morton won a PRV lawsuit in Federal Court, represented by Ecojustice. Justice Rennie ruled that the Minister of Fisheries must screen BC farm salmon for PRV and uphold section 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations prohibiting transfer of these fish, carrying a disease agent, into Canadian waters.
In 2013, Morton co-published the first scientific paper on a Norwegian strain of PRV in BC waters. In 2017, a Canadian federal research team led by Dr. Kristi Miller published on disease caused by PRV in BC Atlantic salmon and Morton published on the spread of the virus to wild salmon exposed to salmon farms. Earlier this month Dr. Miller’s research group reported that the strain of PRV found in BC causes Chinook salmon blood cells to rupture en masse.
Meanwhile in Canada, despite the emerging science and legal decision, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc continues to refuse to screen BC Atlantic farm salmon for PRV. The industry admits 80% of BC farm salmon are infected with PRV, leaving them without sufficient uninfected fish to farm legally in BC if the Minister of Fisheries upheld the law. In 2016, Morton filed a second lawsuit against the Minister and in 2018 the ‘Namgis’ of Alert Bay filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Harvest to halt PRV-infected farm salmon from entering farms in their territory. Both cases will be heard in September.
“Washington State is leading the way again with decisive action against the risk of PRV-infected farm salmon to wild salmon. In my view, Minister Dominic LeBlanc has become a poster boy for government regulatory capture,” says Morton, “his blind obedience to the needs of this dying industry has become an international embarrassment to Canadians, and one of the biggest threats to wild salmon on this coast. I certainly hope those 800,000 infected young farm salmon do not find a home in a BC fish farm.”
Also on May 17, in an interim decision by Justice Bowden in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Marine Harvest failed to win an injunction to prevent vessels from approaching its farms within 20m. Rights of free passage over the water extend back to the Magna Carta. This case will be heard in full on June 25th.
For more information: Alexandra Morton 250-974-7086