LEGAL: A. Morton & Namgis First Nation go to Court against DFO and Marine Harvest & Cermaq re. PRV; Video Primer

Below is the latest Alexandra Morton press release (September 10, 2018):

Morton and Namgis in Court with Minister and Fish Farmers

One week of hearings to stop the spread of salmon virus

Where: Vancouver Federal Court, 701 W. Georgia

Press Conference: 8:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 10, plaza on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery

When: 9:30-4:30, September 10-14, Monday – Friday

What: Two lawsuits, one filed by Alexandra Morton (represented by Ecojustice) against the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for failing to screen farm salmon for piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), prior to issuing a permit to transfer young farm salmon from landbased hatcheries into sea pens.

Marine Harvest and Cermaq successfully petitioned the court and will join the Minister as co-defendants.

The Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay, filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Harvest to stop the practice of transferring PRV-infected farm salmon into the Swanson Island salmon farm in their territory. This farm facility was occupied for 280 days last year, until Marine Harvest won a court injunction to remove them.

The two cases will be heard together. For more information on the Namgis lawsuit please contact hereditary and elected chief counsellor, Don Svanvik 250-974-4552

The Issue: 80% of BC farm salmon are infected with PRV and Canadian law prohibits transfer of fish infected with a “disease agent” into Canadian waters, therefore if PRV is recognized as a disease agent, salmon farming may not be able to operate legally in BC. This case, originally filed in 2013 was won in 2015. However the Minister of Fisheries refuses to acknowledge the Federal Court Rennie decision. Emerging DFO science reports PRV appears to be a disease agent causing acute disease in Chinook salmon. Other research suggests PRV is found naturally in BC and is not a disease agent. Washington State recently prohibited transfer of 800,000 PRV-infected farm salmon into marine pens. It was determined that the strain of PRV in Washington State’s Cooke Aquaculture farms is of Icelandic origin.

“The future of salmon farming lawfully in BC pivots on whether DFO recognizes PRV as a disease agent or not, “ says Alexandra Morton who published the first paper on PRV in BC in 2013, “but when you scrutinize the science, it is very clear PRV is a serious threat to BC’s Chinook and probably other salmon species.”

Morton has released a 3-minute video primer on the lawsuit.

The Facts

  • Section 56 of the Fishery General Regulations prohibits transfer of fish infectedwith a “disease agent” into Canadian waters.
  • Marine Harvest states they would be “severely” impacted if prohibited fromtransferring PRV-infected fish into their marine farms (Affidavit)
  • DFO science reports PRV causes Chinook salmon cells to rupture en mass (DiCicco et al 2018)
  • PRV spreads easily through water, making salmon farms PRV infection sites forwild salmon (Morton et al 2017)
  • Morton already won this case in 2015.


DFO/Industry Response:

  • Disregard the 2015 court decision
  • Refuse to test farm salmon for PRV prior to issuing transfer permit
  • Discount DFO science reporting acute impact of PRV on Chinook salmon (DiCicco et al 2018)
  • Industry’s public statements suggest PRV is rarely in their hatcheries and comes from wild salmon.
  • Marine Harvest Affidavit states all but one of their BC hatcheries is infected with PRV, which contradicts statements by the BC Salmon Farmers.

Related news:

The Province of BC and Broughton First Nations will be announcing the fate of the 20 salmon farm provincial tenures in the Broughton Archipelago at the end of September.

All supporting documents, further information and photos are available at:

For more information contact: Alexandra Morton – 250-974-7086