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Salmon crusader to get day in court

 Christopher Pollon

The locations of more than 100 fish farms on the British Columbian coast.

The locations of more than 100 fish farms on the British Columbian coast.

Scientist and wild salmon crusader Alexandra Morton is finally getting her day in court -- for a lawsuit launched last year challenging the legality of federally issued licences allowing fish farms to transfer virus-infected fish into waters frequented by B.C. wild salmon.

Lawyers from the environmental law firm Ecojustice, acting on behalf of Morton, will be arguing Wednesday that such licences are illegal and should be struck down.

The virus in question is the piscine reovirus -- which is contagious and linked to a serious infectious fish disease that affects the muscles and heart of infected fish.

“It comes down to which fish are your priority – farmed fish or wild fish?” Morton said. “It’s inherently risky to introduce a virus with potentially harmful consequences into the ocean. That’s not a gamble Canadians want to take.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Federal Court of Canada on May 2013 against the federal fisheries minister and salmon farming company Marine Harvest. Morton, with the backing of law firm EcoJustice, believes the minister may have exceeded her jurisdiction when she gave a Marine Harvest vet the final decision on whether virus-exposed atlantic salmon could go into the public waters of British Columbia

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is standing by while companies decide to put fish carrying viruses into the ocean,” alleged Margot Venton, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “Not only is this a reckless approach to marine protection, but we believe it is unlawful.”

An outcome is expected in about four months.


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