Marine Harvest, a Norwegian-based producer of farmed salmon, will plead guilty to a 2009 case of having “incidental bycatch” (the unintended capture of marine species, in this instance wild salmon and herring) at two of its facilities near the north end of Vancouver Island in the Broughton Archipelago.
Alexandra Morton of the group Salmon Are Sacred, took the case to court. She said it was subsequently taken over by the federal government.
Morton said her lawyer told her that it was the first time the Department of Justice had made such a move with a private prosecution. “We want to see this problem fixed,” she said Saturday.
“They have bright lights at night. They say it’s to prevent their fish from maturing too fast – they want them to just grow but they don’t want them to grow eggs – but people feel that it’s attracting [wild] fish to the farms.”
Young fish are small enough to find their way into the fish-farm pens, Morton said. “We don’t know if the farmed fish are eating them or not,” she said. “There needs to be a solid barrier between the wild fish and farmed fish.”
Marine Harvest spokesman Clare Backman said the company will plead guilty in court Jan. 18. He said there are two counts of incidental bycatch, but he could not elaborate further on the case until after the legal proceedings are concluded.