Friday, January 20, 2012

The Media Versus The People



I waited on this story for two full days.

And now, finally, there is a single proMedia report from Dan McLennan in the massive circulation Campbell River Courier-Islander:

Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) has been fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to properly return Pacific herring to the wild in October 2009.

But the plea and sentencing in a Port Hardy courtroom Wednesday was the culmination of a lengthy - and some say historic - case.

Back in June 2009, open net pen opponent Alexandra Morton was told of wild pink salmon smolts spilling onto a Port McNeill dock where Marine Harvest was loading farmed Atlantic salmon from a boat to a truck. Morton investigated and urged the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to investigate and lay charges.

A second incident occurred in late-September/early-October when Pacific herring that got into MHC's Arrow Pass farm were moved to another site along with the farmed fish. Morton urged DFO to act on this incident as well. When DFO failed to take action, Morton and her lawyer Jeff Jones laid their own charges, alleging MHC had possessed wild fish without a license. Morton said herring have been endangered in the Broughton Archipelago area for years....


Let me be very clear.

I am not in any way impugning Mr. McLennan or his employer here.

But I am very concerned that this story of historic importance, a story that really matters to British Columbians, is not being widely covered and reported by the proMedia in this province.

Luckily, for those of us paying attention, Ms. Morton herself gives us the entire story, in her own words, at her blog.

Here is her lede:

As people from the Broughton Archipelago, where the crimes occurred, Alert Bay, Sointula, and Port Hardy looked on Marine Harvest pleaded guilty to charges related to illegal possession of wild fish. Marine Harvest made the unprecedented move to avert the 4 - day trial that had been scheduled.

At issue were juvenile pink salmon, almost certainly from Glendale River that ended up falling out of a huge bucket moving Atlantic salmon broodstock into a truck and 3cm herring that ended up in the farm salmon dump in Beaver Cove.

While flawed in many ways, this case made history twice over. It was the first time a private prosecution has ever been taken over and run by the Department of Justice to its conclusion and it is the first time the Norwegian salmon farming industry has been charged for taking wild fish. I would like to thank Todd Gerhart of the Department of Justice for taking this all the way.

With no obvious way out, Marine Harvest, represented by the BC Salmon Farmer lawyer in the Cohen Inquiry Alan Blair, pleaded guilty to a portion of the charge... the part about releasing the herring in the wrong place - that the fish were picked up at Arrow Pass and released at Midsummer. We heard the little herring all went back into the sea and a few of the larger herring were accidentally tossed into the pen with the Atlantic salmon.

This is not the way I heard it from Marine Harvest back in October 2009. Standing on a dock in Beaver Cove, Robert Mountain and I heard a Marine Harvest employee tell us that the smaller herring fell through a sorting grid and were put in totes and dumped in the farm salmon dump in Beaver Cove. We heard this when, tipped by a fish farmer disgusted by the situation contacted me, we went looking for them in the dump. We were met by steaming piles of freshly turned bark and rotten fish...

Now, the good news.

Ms. Morten, and those who help her, have no attention from averting their eyes if any future transgressions occur:

...(N)ow that Marine Harvest has received a warning - for having the pinks in June 2009, and now being found guilty for having the herring in October 2009, if they are caught with illegal wild fish again the offence rises. DFO asks that we "observe, record, report" so please do so if you see wild fish dying in industrial salmon farming operations...

And if these folks do witness any such future transgressions we would hope that, with the precedent set, the DFO will now move forward with all speed to punish the transgressors forthwith.



No comments: