Mowi Canada West salmon farm in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia, Canada.
Mowi Canada West salmon farm in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Mowi Canada West.

Canadian government responds to Mowi's legal claim over Discovery Islands permits

Mowi alleges decision to phase out open-net pen salmon aquaculture in the region "wiped out" 30% of its business, but Canada authorities say decision was "made in good faith" and "in the public interest", in official response submitted to Canadian Supreme Court.

The controversy over Canada's decision to stop open net-pen farming in the Discovery Islands has taken a further turn, with the official response of Canadian authorities to Mowi's claim against the Canadian Government and former fisheries ministers Bernadette Jordan and Joyce Murray.

In March, Mowi Canada West lodged a civil claim with Canada's Supreme Court accusing Jordan and Murray of “misfeasance in public office", claiming that the Discovery Islands ban "wiped out 30 per cent" of its business.

Recently, an official 41-page response has been lodged by the defendants including Jordan and Murray, stating that the decisions were "made in good faith" and came within the legal compass of government decision-making.

According to the document, which responds point-by-point to each of Mowi's claims, the decision to close net pen farming in the Discovery Islands "balanced several competing social, economic, and cultural considerations".

These included "the opposition of some Indigenous groups to open-net pen salmon aquaculture facilities in the DI [...] and the balance between the role the aquaculture sector plays in the economy and the potential risks that open-net pen aquaculture poses to the health of wild salmon," the statement read.

Decision "wiped out 30%" of business, Mowi claims

Mowi Canada West claims that the decision has led to significant losses for the company both in terms of investment dollars (estimated at $26 million) and the enforced culling of over 1 million fish. The company was forced to close 11 sites in the Discovery Islands area.

Seeking as yet unspecified damages for the closures, Mowi also claims it was given insufficient notice of the decision, and alleges the ministers concerned were fully aware of the negative repercussions for the farming business.

“The Fisheries Ministers engaged in deliberate and unlawful conduct in the exercise of public functions with the actual and constructive knowledge that the conduct was unlawful and would or was likely to injure Mowi,” the company's claim document states.

Canada government says Mowi has only itself to blame, citing lack of due diligence

However, in their official response, the defendants assert that "Mowi had no legal right to be granted a licence or its reissuance after expiry and had no property interest arising from licences granted".

“Mowi failed to mitigate the risks inherent in investing in a highly regulated industry by not adequately planning, financially and otherwise, for existing and future uncertainty and changes in the regulatory framework,” the response also said.

“Mowi could, by exercise of due diligence, have reduced the amount of any alleged loss, damage, or expense it says it suffered and now claims," it continued.

While the claim and response have now been submitted to the Supreme Court, a court date has not yet been set for the case hearing.

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