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Wild salmon advocates celebrate court ruling on fish farm practices

Alexandra Morton, third from right, with Ecojustice laweyrs

Prominent wild salmon advocate and biologist Alexandra Morton celebrated a Federal Court decision this week that rejected licensing rules allowing fish farms to transfer sick fish into open ocean pens.

Morton worked with Ecojustice to launch the lawsuit against fish farm company Marine Harvest two years ago, and said in statement that she felt 'relieved' by the court's decision. 

"This was a reckless practice that put wild salmon at risk by exposing them to potentially dangerous disease agents," Morton said in a statement.

"The Court's judgement comes as a big relief. Salmon farms are just nets or cages open to our oceans. To stock them with farmed fish carrying viruses is playing biological roulette."

Morton took court action after discovering that farmed fish with piscene reovirus (PRV) wer in a Marine Harvest hatchery on the migration route of the Fraser River sockeye salmon. Piscene reovirus, while not known to cause harm to humans, causes heart and skeletal inflammation in salmon. 

 Ecojustice lawyer Margot Venton praised the court's decision. 

"The court made crystal clear that no one can put fish with diseases that may cause harm (to wild fish) — that's unlawful," Venton said. "Once you introduce something into the ocean, you can't take it back. You can't  just isolate the ocean in the same way you can isolate a farm on land, for example."

Venton said the ruling found that The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans' licensing had wrongfully allowed Marine Harvest to transfer farmed fish with viruses into pens. She said his ruling said the federal government should "err on the side of caution" and minimize the risk of disease from fish farms spreading to wild salmon. 

Although this court case was against practices by Marine Harvest, as 120 licenses in B.C. could be affected by the ruling. 

Read the full text of the decision below: 


Judge Rennie's decision - Alexandra Morton v. Marine Harvest by Vancouver_Observer

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