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Federal review of fish virus policy underway; DFO won't challenge court ruling

VANCOUVER — Ottawa will not appeal a recent court decision that orders a review of its policy not to test young farmed salmon for a potentially deadly disease before the fish are transferred to open-net farms along the British Columbia coast.
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VANCOUVER — Ottawa will not appeal a recent court decision that orders a review of its policy not to test young farmed salmon for a potentially deadly disease before the fish are transferred to open-net farms along the British Columbia coast.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says in a news release that the Feb. 4 Federal Court decision is complete and the ruling will not be challenged.

The release says, in line with Justice Cecily Strickland's decision, the department is reviewing its policies on piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV, and results are due this spring.

PRV causes fatal heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in Atlantic salmon, but a 2018 study led by a federal scientist linked it to an equally deadly type of anemia in at least one species of wild B.C. salmon.

Fish farm opponent Alexandra Morton and the 'Namgis First Nation dispute the policy that allowed farmed fish smolts to be released into pens along known wild salmon routes, without being tested for PRV or another serious disease.

The federal release says the court found the policy set the threshold for "harm" to wild stocks too high and ordered a review, but the decision also said the minister could reaffirm the policy not to test for PRV, and make no changes.

The 'Namgis First Nation had challenged a Fisheries and Oceans Canada authorization transferring Atlantic salmon smolts to an open-pen aquaculture facility in the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island.

An appeal of that authorization is still before the courts.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says its officials are working to ensure the aquaculture sector is economically successful and environmentally sustainable.

"The Government of Canada believes very firmly that a strong, science-based approach to regulating the aquaculture industry is essential. We will ensure that our policies and regulations are informed by evidence-based decision making," the release says. 

The department is continuing a study of on-land and sea-based closed containment fish farming technology that could keep farmed salmon out of waters shared with wild B.C. stocks, reducing the potential for transfer of diseases.

The department says results of that study are expected this summer.

The Canadian Press




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