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Ecojustice threatens lawsuit over fish farm expansion

A Marine Harvest salmon farm that was been permitted to increase production just before a provincial moratorium on such expansions came into effect is now at the centre of a potential lawsuit against the federal fisheries ministry.

Ecojustice, on behalf of the Living Oceans Society, is threatening a lawsuit against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over what it claims is an "unlawful approval" to expand Marine Harvest’s Doyle Island facility near Port Hardy, off northern Vancouver Island.

Ecojustice staff lawyer Judah Harrison said Marine Harvest's request to increase production levels by 37 per cent should have triggered an environmental assessment. Instead, the DFO determined that the facility’s existing environmental assessment was adequate.

Ecojustice has a history of taking the DFO to court. In 2007, the environmental law organization charged that the DFO failed to identify and protect crucial Nooksack Dace habitat under the Species At Risk Act. Two years later, in a landmark ruling, a federal court found that the federal agency had indeed broken the law.

Last February, after a coalition of environmental groups threatened to sue again, the DFO took action to legally protect Orca whale habitat under the Act.

This latest case comes at a significant time for salmon protection in B.C. In March, the Cohen Commission, a federal inquiry on the collapse of the Sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, gets underway.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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