The 'Namgis Big House. Photo courtesy the 'Namgis First Nation via www.namgis.bc.ca.
ALERT BAY, B.C. – The ‘Namgis First Nation doesn’t want untested fish in their waters.
The band is suing Marine Harvest Canada Inc. over a plan to restock its farm at Swanson Island, which is located approx. 16 kilometres east of Alert Bay, and is part of ‘Namgis territory.
The policy of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is to not test farmed Atlantic salmon for the blood virus, piscine reovirus (PRV) prior to transferring smolts from Marine Harvest’s hatcheries into open-net pen fish farms in ‘Namgis territory, according to a release from the First Nation.
The ‘Namgis First Nation filed a Notice of Application in federal court seeking the review of the policy on Tuesday, March 6.
Then, on March 9, the FN filed a motion for a court order to prevent the federal government from issuing a license to Marine Harvest to transfer the product, pending resolution of the judicial review.
According to the release, the federal Minister has not consulted with the ‘Namgis FN, despite numerous attempts from them to engage in conversation.
PRV is a disease agent that can be very harmful to the conservation and protection of fish. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is not allowed to issue licenses to transfer fish infected with PRV.
The ‘Namgis release states that the Minister and Marine Harvest claim that PRV does not pose any danger to wild salmon.
The FN’s application notes that the Minister’s decision to not test the salmon is unlawful and threatens the “already extremely depleted wild salmon populations in their territory”.
It is also stated that the policy threatens ongoing reconciliation efforts in Canada.
“We have made every attempt to engage Canada in good faith on their PRV policy and the transfer of Atlantic salmon into our territory, but it refused to consult with us”, said Chief Don Svanvik, in the release.
“’Namgis has no other option to protect wild salmon, our title and rights and ultimately who we are as a people but to ask the Court to intervene to prevent the serious, irreversible harm being visited upon us by Canada and Marine Harvest.”
Piscine reovirus is the same blood virus that was found in waste blood water discharged from farm salmon rendering and packing facilities in Clayoquot Sound and Discovery Passage late last year.