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Marine Harvest opposing ‘Namgis First Nation lawsuit

ALERT BAY, B.C- A lawsuit over salmon is headed to court.

Earlier this month, salmon farming company Marine Harvest was blocked from transferring salmon from a freshwater hatchery to their ocean-based farm off of Swanson Island. The site is 16 kilometres east of Alert Bay, and part of the ‘Namgis First Nation traditional territories.

Marine Harvest, ‘Namgis First Nation, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans will be heading to court next week over the transfer, which the ‘Namgis want to prevent by way of court injunction.

The First Nation is also seeking a review of Fisheries and Oceans policy that does not require testing for a blood virus in fish, known as piscine reovirus (PRV), prior to the transfer of Atlantic smolt.

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The company has issued a statement, which indicates their opposition to both the policy review and the legal challenge against the transfer.

“We have tried many times to engage ‘Namgis leadership in respectful discussions about our business generally and this year’s tenure renewal specifically, without success,” said Vincent Erenst, Managing Director of Marine Harvest Canada,” in the release.

“We are open to discussing all options, including potentially relocating some of our farms.”

“It is concerning that the ‘Namgis are resorting to legal action rather than discussion, and misinterpreting what science tells us about PRV as the basis of a legal challenge that attempts to interrupt our business and put people out of work, some of them of First Nations heritage.”

Erenst also stated that the company already tested the smolts planned for the transfer for PRV, and found no signs of the disease.

“As required by the transfer licence, the salmon destined for Swanson farm have recently been screened for health by third-party laboratories and confirmed disease-free and healthy,” read the release.

“Swanson Island farm has been operating for 30 years with all regulatory and permit requirements in place. During this time the tenure permit has been renewed several times after Crown consultation with local First Nations. Application for renewal of the Swanson Island tenure (expiring June 2018) is currently in process and again includes Crown consultation with the ‘Namgis First Nation.”

Hearings on the matter will take place in Vancouver on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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