Skip to content

Fish farm opponent returns to the BAG

Alexandra Morton recounts fight against industry in Canadian courts

The fish farm industry's staunchest opponent returns to the Brackendale Art Gallery Sunday, Jan. 31 with details about her legal battle to eliminate "unlawful" practices.

World renowned British Columbia-based wildlife activist Alexandra Morton won a landmark case last year when she and others successfully petitioned that provincial regulation of the ocean-finfish aquaculture industry was unconstitutional.

"It's not that they're illegal, they're unlawful," said Morton, who presents Politics and Law: Norwegian Salmon Farming in Canada at the BAG at 8 p.m. "They're really operating outside of our law."

Last February B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled that under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government is responsible for management and protection of fisheries. He ordered an end to provincial regulation over ocean-finfish aquaculture by February 9, 2010.

Morton said she realized the current Fisheries Act - meant to regulate aquaculture - had giant legal loopholes only after she decided to personally charge a fish farm with unlawful possession of juvenile pink salmon. She said the act has been so re-arranged over the years, that it can not adequately address occurrences.

"Provincially licensed aquaculture is exempt from fishing regulations."

Morton first got involved with fish farming after she moved to Broughton Archipelago in the Queen Charlotte Strait during the early 1980s. She was studying killer whales and noticed a decline in the orca population.

She attributed the dwindling population to a change in orca food - wild salmon - was becoming diseased with sea lice. The lice, Morton found, was being spread by fish farms situated in close proximity to wild salmon waterways.

Since there are no current laws regulating the fish farming industry, Morton suggested either developing new laws or changing the fish farming industry altogether.

"I can't prove that the fish farms are destroying anything but I'm saying, 'OK, let's have a look at you guys. What is your by-catch? What are your diseases? Let's just make it transparent because they are in public waters," she said.

"The law has not been written to govern this industry and there's this really fundamental problem in that salmon farming in net pens in unconstitutional in our oceans. So they either have to change the constitution or they have to change the industry."

In an effort to change the situation, Morton has launched a petition through, urging the Fisheries and Oceans Canada to apply the Fisheries Act to the farming industry. The petition now has 20,000 signatures.

Morton's lecture is a part of a month-long nature series at the Brackendale Art Gallery, which starts on Jan. 10 with Damien Gillis. On Jan. 17 David Hancock will discuss the dependant ecosystem between eagles, salmon and orcas and on Jan. 24 wildlife photographer Norman Rich will give a presentation. Each lecture starts at 8 p.m. and admission is by donation.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks