B.C.'s largest fish-farming company facing charges

Wildlife News

Justice Department takes over private prosecution launched by biologist

By Judith Lavoie,
Victoria Times Colonist
April 21, 2010 2:05 PM
Photograph: Bill Keay, PNG
source: The Province
Researcher Alexandra Morton checks out young salmon just netted in Fife Sound for sea lice.
 Researcher Alexandra Morton checks out young salmon just netted in Fife Sound for sea lice.

 VICTORIA — Charges of unlawful possession of wild salmon and herring have been laid against Marine Harvest Canada, the largest fish-farming company in British Columbia.

What began as a private prosecution — initiated by biologist and activist Alexandra Morton — was taken over by the federal Justice Department on Tuesday, said federal prosecutor Todd Gerhart.

"New information charges Marine Harvest with four counts and deals with two incidents," he said.

The first incident involves juvenile wild pink salmon. It's alleged the wild fish were mixed in with farmed Atlantic salmon as they were taken off a Marine Harvest vessel in June.

The second incident involves herring, which, it's alleged, were discarded from pens in October.

The charges allege the company failed to report incidental catches of wild fish and, having caught live fish, that the company failed to return them to the ocean in a manner that would have caused the least harm.


Marine Harvest will next appear in court June 22.

Clare Backman, the company's director of environmental compliance and community relations, said no decision has yet been made on a plea.

"We will have to wait until we see the information," Gerhart said.


Morton, a campaigner against open-net fish farms, is jubilant the Justice Department has taken over the prosecutions.

"For decades we have heard reports of wild fish trapped in fish farms, eaten by the farm fish and destroyed during harvest," she said.


Information about specific incidents was passed to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but it refused to act, Morton said.

 "Now, government is finally doing its job. This is enormous."


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