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A coalition representing 19 British Columbia First Nations and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has applied jointly to the Federal Court to intervene in a case involving the closing of fish farms off Vancouver Island and the survival of wild salmon.

A joint statement from the coalition says they are applying to the court out of their obligation to protect wild salmon for current and future generations.

Last February, the federal fisheries minister announced that 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the Discovery Islands near Campbell River would be closed.

The closings are being challenged by two area First Nations and three fish-farm companies on the grounds that the minister’s decision was unreasonable and inconsistent with the duty to consult with the We Wai Kai and the Wei Wai Kum First Nations.

Former fisheries minister Joyce Murray said then that the Discovery Islands area is a key migration route for wild salmon and recent science indicates uncertainty over the risks posed by the farms to wild salmon.

Open-net fish farms off B.C.’s coast are a major issue of debate, with environmental groups and some Indigenous nations saying the farms are linked to the transfer of disease to wild salmon, while the industry and some local politicians say thousands of jobs are threatened if the operations are phased out.

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