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Path Through Chaos: B.C. Rules in Favour of Fish

VANCOUVER, CANADA - The war over fish took a sustainable turn yesterday when a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that the federal government - not the provinces - should regulate fish farms because it has constitutional powers over the ocean.

Today BC Supreme Court ruled that the BC government does not have the right to regulate salmon farms - the BC regulation of fish farms has become unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

The fish inside the farm are now considered a fishery, not agriculture and thus the federal government has exclusive right to regulation. The court suspended the ruling for a period of 12 months to allow the federal government to bring in proper legislation.

On September 29 - October 3, 2008, the case Alexandra Morton et al vs the A.G. of British Columbia and Marine Harvest Canada, Vancouver Registry, No. S083198 was argued in BC Supreme Court before Mr. Justice Hinkson. Filed under the Judicial Review Procedure Act, RSBC, c. 241 the Petitioners sought a declaration that the statutory provisions of British Columbia's Aquaculture Regulatory Regime - sections 13(5) and 26(2)(a) of the Fisheries Act (B.C.) - be declared unconstitutional and of no force or effect by virtue of section 52 of the Constitution, which states that the regulation of Canada's fisheries is under the sole jurisdiction of the Federal Crown and cannot be delegated to the provinces.

When salmon farming arrived on this coast very little was know about it, today know much, much more. Just last week the provincially funded Pacific Salmon Forum called for restructioning of the fish farm regulatory regime now we have the opportunity to do something that makes sense.

The response from Alexandra Morton, lead petitioner in the case, is one of relief and joy. "Finally, the government agency in charge of fish farms is mandated to put wild salmon first. This has come none too soon as provincial management of fish farms is devastating many coastal communities."

"Because the province is not responsible for the oceans, the impact of fish farms on the oceans became nobody's business and this is how we got into this mess," explains Morton.

"The B.C. salmon farming industry is largely foreign and facing severe global economic and disease problems," says Morton. "What makes countries wealthy is their resources and wild salmon are an extremely valuable fishery to the benefit of the BC economy."

"I would like to thank my lawyer, Greg McDade, the hundreds of people who supported this via www.adopt-a-fry.org", says Morton, "West Coast Environmental Law and many others for their help. There is an enormous amount of work ahead, but this court has illuminated a path though the chaos. The war in the water should be over. Our wild salmon are down but they are not out!"

the Fish Site Editor

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