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A Tale of Two Coasts: Canada Has an Inconsistent Stance on Fish Farms - Why?

In 2009 a B.C. Supreme Court ruled that fish farms are actually a Fishery making them a federal responsibility there. | "The federal government has a plan to phase out open net pen fish farming in B.C. by 2025, based on a 2019 election promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau." Meanwhile, "In Atlantic Canada, the fish farm industry is on the precipice of a boom. Nova Scotia could see a four-fold increase in open-net pen salmon farming, and significant expansion is planned along the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. " - The National Observer

"The reason the federal government can order fish farm closures in B.C. is due to a 2009 Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling, which split the responsibility for aquaculture between the province and the federal government."

What that means: In Canada the jurisdictional power to issue fishery licenses and regulate the fishery lies with the federal government. Thus in B.C., the only province where fish farms are classified as a 'Fishery', their licensing is regulated by the federal government, DFO. The jurisdictional power to grant fish farm site leases (aka tenures) and regulation of the business activities of the fish farms, lies with the Province of B.C.

The game-changing case, brought forward by biologist Alexandra Morton, argued it was unconstitutional to allow the province to monitor the farms, which were then classified as agriculture. The court ruled fish farms are actually a fishery, making them a federal responsibility.

"On Canada’s East Coast there have been no such legal challenges. Jurisdiction over open-net pen salmon farms remains with the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Greg McDade, the lawyer on Morton’s 2009 case, explained one province’s court decision doesn’t automatically apply countrywide."

“The findings of a B.C. judge are supposed to be persuasive in other provinces, but they're not binding. So they can legally ignore it unless somebody brings a case … which I've been quite surprised no one has done,” - Lawyer, Greg McDade who successfully challenged in B.C.

How much longer is Atlantic Canada going to ignore this?

Reporter Cloe Logan dives into this controversial topic in a 4 Chapter Report linked below. Special Thanks to Cloe for visiting us here on the East Coast and interviewing Brian for this piece.

Excerpts Above:

The National Observer | Written by: Cloe Logan | October 10, 2023


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