The B.C. Supreme Court has granted an injunction against a number of people who have trespassed on a fish farm company's property in recent months.
Marine Harvest Canada applied for the injunction for their licensed aquaculture site on Midsummer Island, one of several fish farms they operate in the Broughton Archipelago, east of Port Hardy.
Justice Peter Voith ruled the injunction was warranted because the protesters' actions interfered with Marine Harvest's operations, prevented the harvest and removal of salmon from the facility, and included threatening behaviour toward staff.
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"As a result of these incidents Marine Harvest decided to defer the delivery of additional fish to the site with the result that for some months the site only operated at about 40 per cent of its capacity," Voith wrote.
"The unnamed defendants have made no effort to explain or justify the legality of their conduct. The fact that they feel strongly about the underlying issues that they wish to address cannot justify their conduct."
The ruling also allows the RCMP to remove people from the site if they ignore the injunction.
"We had sought this injunction after many months of protest activity and numerous failed attempts to begin dialogue with protest organizers. Our staff must be able to work in a safe environment, free of harassment and intimidation," Vincent Erenst, Marine Harvest Canada's managing director, said in a statement.
'This is not over'
The injunction applies to a number of individuals who protested at the site, some of whom are members of the Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw and Namgis First Nations.
Others are longtime environmental activists, including Alexandra Morton, a biologist and long-time fish farm critic.
"I expected it, but it's a real indicator of how this is going to go," Morton said.
"I don't think Marine Harvest is going to be able to co-exist with the First Nations who want them out of their territory. Everyone knows getting an injunction against First Nations in their territory is not where we're heading as a country."
No new tenure permits for fish farms have been approved in B.C. since 2015, and the licence for Marine Harvest's Midsummer Island site expires in June 2018.
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Morton is hopeful the government won't renew it.
"It's going to come down to whether the provincial government wants to reconcile with First Nations, and tell the fish farms, you cannot operate if you don't have agreements, or they're going to side with these companies, which would be stunning," she said.
"This decision is the first step for a new future for this coast ... it's disappointing, but it pretty well had to happen."