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Historic injunction granted to Homalco

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Deirdre Tombs, Raven's Eye Writer, Campbell River







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With an interim injunction, the British Colombia Supreme Court ordered Marine Harvest Canada to remove its Atlantic salmon smolts from its fish farm on Homalco territory in the Bute Inlet.

Justice Ian Pitfield made his ruling Dec. 24, using the recent Supreme Court of Canada Haida decision, stating that there is precedent for Homalco to argue the community was not properly consulted about the project.

The salmon farm is located directly in front of Church House, the Homalco village and reserve, and at the mouth of the Bute Inlet where wild salmon that spawn in the Southgate, Homathco and Orford rivers pass on their migration routes.

The Homalco won another victory on Jan. 14, when the BC Court of Appeal denied Marine Harvest's appeal to overturn the interim injunction. Marine Harvest Canada is a division of the Dutch multi-national Nutreco.

The injunction to remove the salmon smolts refers to those added to the farm on or after Dec. 22, the day the Homalco band filed their petition with the court. Marine Harvest began adding the smolts as soon as approval for the fish farm came through on Dec. 8.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association stated in a press release that, "the application for species amendment went through the standard provincial administrative procedures and federal referral process, and was referred to the Homalco for consultation through that process." The court granted a judicial review of that process. At time of publication, the review was in progress.

"Right now [the government is] trying to prove that they have talked, but with the amount of information that they've given us it's pretty scant," said Homalco Chief Darren Blaney.

Marine Harvest applied for a license to grow Atlantic salmon in April 2004, but Blaney said the provincial government did not notify the band about the application until July 23, 2004. Five days later, on July 28, Homalco received word that biologists had approved the application.

"So pretty much all the consultation that went on after that was, it seemed like for nothing, because it seemed as if B.C. had its mind made up that it was going to approve it," Blaney said.

The province approved the application on Dec. 8 but did not notify the band until Dec. 17, after the band office had closed for the Christmas holidays.

"There was very little consultation. They wouldn't really give us any information. They were saying 'What is your specific concerns?' But there was some difficulty with that because at the time there was no Atlantics introduced yet. And they're saying 'Well, give us your direct impacts of the Atlantics on your application then. So, until the Atlantics are there then you can only speculate on some of the issues that Atlantics cause in terms of sea lice and the disease and threats to the wild stocks and escapes and colonization of river systems.' Those things are concerns that other people have experienced, but in Church House it hasn't been the experience yet," said Blaney. "How else can we do it but speculate?"

The band is concerned about the potential damage to the wild salmon stocks from sea lice infestations as they pass under the farm during migration. There is also worry that escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, could take over the salmon runs. The band is concerned about the effects of pollution from salmon waste on the clam beds, which Blaney said are less than 125 metres away.

"In the future, if our children are going to be exercising our culture, a big part of our culture is

related to the salmon. ... If we have Atlantic salmon, that's not part of our culture. So that is a risk I think that we really can't take and until the farming industry does it with maybe a closed containment system that would contain the diseases and sea lice and the salmon from escaping, then that might be the best alternative for them to reduce the impact or their footprint on the land."

Linda Sams, a senior biologist for Marine Harvest Canada, lso expressed her concerns about the case in the press release by the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

"We all live here in the small community of Campbell River. There are many First Nations working in the aquaculture industry, some in partnership with our company, and I am concerned that their voice is not being heard."