British Columbia

Marine Harvest Canada sues Alexandra Morton for trespassing on fish farms

Marine Harvest Canada has filed a lawsuit against activist and biologist Alexandra Morton for allegedly trespassing on three of their salmon farms last month.

Morton took video of farmed and wild fish at Marine Harvest aquaculture operation on B.C. coast

Activist and biologist Alexandra Morton from a video posted by the Voyage for Salmon campaign this summer, describing her visit to a fish farm owned by Marine Harvest Canada. (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Aquaculture company Marine Harvest Canada has filed a lawsuit against activist and independent biologist Alexandra Morton for allegedly trespassing on three of their salmon farms on the B.C. coast last month.

Morton spent the summer visiting salmon farms — uninvited — aboard the R/V Martin Sheen owned by the group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, looking for a controversial virus prevalent in salmon farms.

In the lawsuit, Marine Harvest alleges she and others trespassed on their Glacier Falls, Midsummer Island and Sonora Island operations without permission and intentionally tampered with the equipment. At two facilities, they're accused of violating biosecurity procedures.

The group is also accused of flying a drone and diving at one facility, putting an object in the water at another and ignoring Marine Harvest's instruction to leave.

At the Midsummer Island facility, Morton put a GoPro camera in the water on Aug. 23 and filmed the farmed salmon; video from that day has been posted online by the anti-fish farm campaign.

A video has also been shared on social media showing the interaction the same day between the company and Indigenous activists from the Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw Nation, challenging the company's right to operate on its traditional territory without its permission.

The company claims it is allowed to operate in the locations by licences issued by the B.C. and Canadian governments, which grant it non-exclusive use of the Crown land and the right to install infrastructure.

"The defendants' conduct interfered with Marine Harvest's use and enjoyment of its property," the company wrote.

Morton was travelling on the R/V Martin Sheen, a vessel owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They were joined by Indigenous activists from the Musgmagw Dzawada’enuwx Nation. (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Important work says activist

Reached by phone, Morton said she hadn't yet seen the lawsuit and declined to speak to the specific claims it contained.

She said the work she and others did visiting salmon farms this summer was necessary to draw attention to what she believes is a threat to wild salmon.

"I saw so many unhealthy, farmed salmon this summer that I thought it was very important that someone go on the farm and document what exactly is going on in the pens," she said.

"Anything that's killing their salmon is a threat to wild salmon."

Marine Harvest declined to comment on its lawsuit but issued a statement saying, "we cannot stand by and allow individuals to ignore the law and trespass on our facilities."

The company said it's willing to provide tours of facilities to interested public and to share information with First Nations partners, conservation organizations, academia and government.

It is seeking damages, costs and an interim and permanent injunction.

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