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B.C. Group: Put Control Back in Federal Hands

VANCOUVER, CANADA A petition that challenges the legal authority of the provincial government to regulate fish farms on the West Coast is scheduled to be heard today in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

If successful, the responsibility for managing fish and fish habitats could be returned to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, effectively nullifying 20 years of provincial aquaculture regulations, reports the Globe and Mail.

According to the Globe and Mail, marine biologist Alexandra Morton has spent almost a decade studying the impact of fish farms on the wild salmon population of B.C.

She joined forces with the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society as well as groups representing commercial fishermen and wilderness tourism operators to file the petition after discovering that the current regulatory framework may be unconstitutional.

In 1988, the DFO delegated the management of salmon in ocean-based pens to the provincial government in a memorandum of understanding.

According to Ms. Morton and her fellow petitioners, the DFO was not authorized to cede responsibility because navigation and fish management remain the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Ms. Morton blames the current organization for the lack of action taken to protect wild salmon stocks. "Because the responsibility is split between two agencies, nothing gets done. It lets both sides off the hook," she told the Globe and Mail.

Ellen Hardy

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