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BC Politics

Court Temporarily Rejects Marine Harvest’s Request for No-Go Zone

But protesters must abandon occupation of fish farm corporation’s onshore bases.

By Andrew Nikiforuk 18 May 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

In an interim decision, the B.C. Supreme Court has refused an unusual request by Norwegian multinational Marine Harvest to exclude the public from watching or diving near its open pen nets in B.C. coastal waters.

However, the court did order First Nation protesters, including Namgis hereditary chief Ernest Alfred, to abandon their occupation of Marine Harvest’s onshore bases near the company’s Swanson facility until the courts revisit the application for a full hearing on June 28.

Marine Harvest had sought an injunction that would prevent the public from coming within 20 metres of its 34 fish farm facilities on B.C.’s coast.

Earlier this month, the company delivered legal notices to independent biologist and fish farm critic Morton and several other parties, including Ernest Alfred who has led the 264-day long protest of the Swanson fish farm in the Broughton Archipelago.

“This order does not limit or restrain the use of open water outside” of Marine Harvest’s physical structures, docks and facilities, ruled Justice Gregory Bowden.

“While it is only an interim decision I am relieved that the court recognizes that prohibiting vessels from approaching salmon farms is not acceptable in Canada,” Morton said.

“That Marine Harvest is attempting this speaks to their desperation to keep their operations hidden from public scrutiny.”

Industrial fish farms have become the intense focus of protests, occupations and political debates due to disease and sea lice occurring on the operations.

A growing number of groups, including the Pacific Salmon Foundation, have asked that the industry be moved onshore into closed containment systems to protect dwindling populations of wild salmon.

In its legal notices, Marine Harvest has alleged that Morton and First Nation protesters “combined and conspired with each other with the intent to injure Marine Harvest by entering into an agreement to interfere and disrupt Marine Harvest’s business and to intimidate Marine Harvest and its employees to destroy the business of Marine Harvest.”

Morton has boarded a fish farm once at the invitation of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw people who are fighting to remove all fish farms from their traditional territory in the Broughton Archipelago.

Members of the Musgamagw, Namgis and Mamalilikulla nations occupied both Marine Harvest’s Swanson and Midsummer farms last summer in an effort to reassert aboriginal rights and title.

Unlike some First Nations on Vancouver Island, the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw people have never given permission for Atlantic salmon farms in their territory.

They want Marine Harvest to close its 22 intensive feeding facilities in the Broughton Archipelago.

Provincial licenses for all 22 facilities will expire June 20 and are now the subject of intense negotiation with First Nations.

The Norwegian-based company request for exclusion zone around their farms seems to be aimed at the Sea Shepherd Society, which plans to send another vessel to the Broughton Archipelago this June as part of its “Operation Virus Campaign.”

Over the last two summers the Sea Shepherd’s R/V Martin Sheen has monitored fish farms to gather information on die-offs and disease outbreaks. The vessel has also supported First Nation protesters opposed to fish farms.

“Marine Harvest is concerned that the Sea Shepherd will return and resume facilitating further unlawful acts against Marine Harvest and increase the risk of confrontation,” the corporation said in its application for an injunction.

Greg McDade, legal counsel for Morton, said earlier this week that Marine Harvest appears to want to avoid scrutiny by the Sea Shepherd society.

“The Sea Shepherd has never interfered with their operations but that seems to be the main object of the Marine Harvest injunction — to keep them from watching and documenting what’s going on at Marine Harvest’s facilities,” he said.  [Tyee]

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