Thursday, February 4, 2010

Alex Morton: demand prosecution of Marine Harvest now

From Alexandra Morton. 

Note: Alex is making a call for action at the end of her email. She is asking us to write to Todd Gerhart of the Department of Justice, and tell him that we believe it is in the public interest to prosecute the matter of Marine Harvest's illegal catch of wild fish.

Read on and write your letter.


On February 2, lawyer Jeffery Jones and I were back in court with my charges against Marine Harvest for illegal possession of wild pink salmon by-catch.  On the previous date (January 4) Judge Saunderson instructed the Department of Justice to inform the court on this day as to whether they will be assuming conduct of this case.

However, Todd Gerhart of the Department of Justice was only prepared to tell the judge that he would make his decision “soon.”  When the judge asked for a specific time, Gerhart did not answer. In response the judge stood the issue down and recalled us later in the day.

Marine Harvest used this opportunity to request disclosure of the “in camera” process hearing. This was a closed-door meeting between myself, a witness, my lawyer and the judge wherein the judge reviewed our evidence and decided the charge could move forward. The Marine Harvest Lawyer, Chris Watson held up some case law.   Although the precedent he offered was from a different situation, we have nothing to hide and agreed.  The Marine Harvest lawyer asked that I bear the cost of transcribing the process hearing, but Judge pointed out it was already transcribed.

Finally, Marine Harvest requested an arraignment date in April and so that is when we will learn if the Department of Justice will assume contact of this case.

I felt disappointed that DOJ couldn’t give us a decision sooner, despite the previous court order.  Spring is coming to us again and with it all the young wild salmon and herring that can be entrapped, detained, destroyed, fed artificial food or even preyed on in salmon farm nets.  However, I have learned the courts cannot be hurried and we should take heart that while this may be slow, at least it is not going backwards.

Mr. Gerhart might decide not to assume this case. Or he could decide to take it over and stay the charges. Or he could decide to conduct a trial and bring the resources of the Department of Justice and our substantial evidence in support of the wild fish that are being removed by fish farm by-catch.  Mr. Gerhart appears to be very concerned with fairness and the public interest and has two decisions to make.

  1. What is the likelihood of conviction? – On this point I can say we have: witnesses, samples of the wild juvenile salmon, and written admission from Marine Harvest that they had wild salmon in their possession.
  2. Is this in the public interest – So I put this to you. Are you interested in seeing the laws of Canada applied to Marine Harvest to prevent them from taking wild fish without a licence or any record of quantity?

Mr. Gerhart says he is still willing to review new information about this case regarding the public interest. I look forward to providing further information to Mr. Gerhart to help establish the public interest in this prosecution. If other people feel the same way, Mr. Gerhart can be contacted directly at: Todd.gerhart@ppsc-sppc.gc.ca

This may be a critical time to demonstrate once and for all to the Canada’s Department of Justice how important wild fish are to the people of British Columbia.

Alexandra Morton

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