Former fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced the decision in December 2020 and gave the companies until June 2022 to finish growing those salmon that had already been stocked. She placed an immediate ban on transfers of smolts to the sites. Those salmon farmers affected – Mowi, Grieg, Cermaq and coho producer 622335 BC Ltd– then applied for a judicial review.
In a ruling made public yesterday Justice Elizabeth Heneghan found that Minister Jordan had breached procedural fairness when she announced the closures via a press release, and also failed to provide reasons for her decision.
“This court’s judgment is that the applications for Judicial Review are allowed with costs, the Decision of the Minister is set aside, the Injunction granted on April 5, 2021 continues and remains in force. The Applicants will be given the opportunity to make submissions on costs, a Direction will follow in that regard,” ruled the judge.
“In my opinion, failure of the Minister to provide reasons in her Decision of December 16, 2020, amounts to a breach of procedural fairness. The consequences of the Decision in this case are significant and the Minister owed a duty to provide reasons,” said Justice Heneghan.
“The Decision, in the absence of reasons, cannot be justified. In the absence of reasons, it is not transparent. In the absence of reasons, it is not intelligible,” she added.
The court also upheld an earlier injunction , which allows the salmon farmers to continue stocking their ocean pens in the Discovery Islands, reaffirming that “salmon aquaculture in BC poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon”.
A study suggests that Minister Jordan’s decision would have seen BC losing almost $390 million in annual economic output with $87 million less in annual salaries and benefits, and 1,535 fewer jobs.
Prior to her announcement, BC’s salmon farmers had pledged to directly invest $1.4 billion in innovation, new technology and infrastructure, to boost Canada’s post pandemic recovery. The investments through 2050 would create almost 10,000 new jobs and add a cumulative $44 billion in new economic activity.
The judgment was welcomed by the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA), which said it was encouraged that the Federal Court has set aside Jordan’s decision to remove salmon farming in the Discovery Islands and upheld the earlier injunction granted on April 5, 2021.
“This is a positive development for the coastal Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in which we operate, and the thousands of family-supporting jobs our sector sustains. We will be reaching out to First Nations in whose territories we operate to review this decision and will have more to say in the following days and weeks ahead,” said BCSFA spokesperson Michelle Franze, in a press release.