A DFO biologist at a fish farm in the Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on Oct. 31, 2018. File photo

A DFO biologist at a fish farm in the Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on Oct. 31, 2018. File photo

Ottawa won’t appeal Federal Court ruling on farmed salmon virus

Review of piscine orthoreovirus policy ongoing, says DFO

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) says it won’t appeal a recent Federal Court decision on piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV.

In early February, Justice Cecily Strickland overturned a DFO policy that allows for the transfer of juvenile Atlantic salmon into open-net fish farms without screening for the virus. The court also ruled that DFO had breached its duty to consult ‘Namgis First Nation about PRV policy.

This followed lawsuits by ‘Namgis First Nation and Alexandra Morton, a marine biologist and outspoken industry critic.

READ MORE: Alexandra Morton, ‘Namgis First Nation win Federal Court ruling

In a statement released on Tuesday night, DFO said the government had completed its review of the ruling and “will not be appealing.”

The court found DFO’s threshold for harm to wild salmon was too high and that its policy didn’t comply with the precautionary principle. It gave DFO four months to review its PRV policy.

READ MORE: Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

That review is ongoing, and its results “will be communicated publicly in spring 2019,” according to the March 12 statement.

DFO stressed that the Federal Court “did not order DFO to test for PRV” before transferring smolts into fish farms or releasing them into the wild.

READ MORE: Dissenter says effects of fish farm virus ‘extremely uncertain’

The statement also noted the court “did not make any decision or statement concerning whether the failure to test for PRV in hatchery smolts poses a risk to wild salmon.”

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