Farmed salmon are raised in net pens in many areas of B.C.'s West Coast. ((CBC))

Fish farming on the West Coast won't be allowed to expand until at least December, following a B.C. Supreme Court decision to give the federal government more time to take over the job of regulating the industry from the province.

The decision by Justice Christopher Hinkson allows the transfer of power from B.C. to Ottawa to be postponed from February until mid-December. During that period, B.C. won't be allowed to grant any more licences or allow existing fish farms to expand.

Alexandra Morton, a long-time opponent of open-net fish farming, welcomed the decision.

"It's temporary for sure, but I'm hoping we can bring some reason to this situation because we know you can't pour a limitless number of salmon into this ocean whether they're ranched, farmed, enhanced, wild — any of them. So we need to stop and think about this," she said.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in February 2009 that the federal government, not the province, should regulate fish farms.


Alexandra Morton holds some of the envelopes containing donations for her court challenge. ((Adopt-a-fry.org))

Morton, who is both a biologist and an outspoken opponent of fish farming, originally challenged provincial control of the fish farming industry in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the federal government was wrong to give up regulatory control of fish farming 20 years ago when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the province.

Morton said she hopes the public will have more say about the future of fish farming once the federal government has taken control.

"While I am truly sorry that jobs will be lost in ocean fish farming, bear in mind the industry is in deep trouble with Mother Nature herself in the fish farming strongholds of Chile and Norway," she said in an email statement on Tuesday.

"Trying to hold this nomadic fish in pens is never going to work, because it causes epidemics, unnatural sea lice infestations and drug resistance. Salmon farming is not sustainable and ultimately we are better served by our wild fish," said Morton.