JUDGE APPROVES LANDMARK SETTLEMENT OF CLEAN WATER ACT LAWSUIT AGAINST
HERITAGE SALMON, INC.
Consent Decree Sets Precedent for Pending Cases Against
Atlantic Salmon of Maine and Stolt Sea Farm
Key Settlement Terms Include:
· Ban on Growing European and Genetically Modified Salmon Strains
· Limits on Stocking Density, to Minimize Disease Outbreaks
· Measures to Protect Wild Salmon from Interaction with Farmed Fish
· Mandatory Fallowing, to Reduce Pollution Impacts
· Ban on Experimental Drugs Without Environmental Review
· Moratorium on Expansion of Heritage Operations Into Penobscot Bay
PORTLAND, ME: United States District Judge Gene Carter today formally
approved the settlement of a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by the United
States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and two Maine residents
against Heritage Salmon, Inc.
On June 4, the parties had submitted a detailed Consent Decree to Judge
Carter under which Heritage agreed to implement precedent-setting salmon
farm practices designed to reduce the impact of its operations on the nearly
extinct wild Atlantic salmon and on water quality. By law, Judge Carter was
required to wait 45 days to allow the federal government time to
review the proposed settlement. The U.S. Department of Justice informed the
Court last Friday that it had no objections to the settlement.
"Today's action by Judge Carter sets the Maine salmon farming industry
firmly on the path to environmental responsibility and sustainability," said
Josh Kratka, senior attorney for the National Environmental Law Center,
which represents the plaintiffs. "We will ask Judge Carter to impose
similar requirements on Maine's other major salmon growers, Atlantic
Salmon of Maine and Stolt Sea Farm, at trial in October."
U.S. PIRG sued Heritage, Stolt and Atlantic Salmon of Maine in July
2000 for illegally discharging pollutants into the ocean without Clean Water
Act discharge permits. The Stolt and Atlantic Salmon of Maine cases are set
for trial on October 7. Heritage is a subsidiary of George Weston, Ltd., a
Canadian food conglomerate that makes Thomas's English muffins, Girl Scout
Cookies and Entenmann's baked goods.
In approving the settlement, Judge Carter also today rejected an attempt by
the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a lobbying group, to delete the
provision of the settlement which prohibits Heritage from growing
genetically modified salmon in Maine. Judge Carter ruled that the biotech
industry's special interest in the growing of transgenic fish does not
"justify further delay in the resolution of this case of extreme
significance to the public interest."
Under the Consent Decree, a binding, judicially enforceable agreement
between the parties resolving the lawsuit:
· Heritage will not grow European salmon. Escaping European fish can
cross-breed with wild North American salmon; their less fit offspring could
hasten the demise of the wild salmon.
· Heritage will not grow genetically modified salmon.
· Heritage will take strong measures to prevent fish escapes.
Heritage must employ fully functional marine containment systems designed,
constructed and operated so that fish do not escape to open water from any
of its farms. Heritage will also mark its fish as specified by the federal
wildlife services, so that any escapees can be traced.
· Heritage will fallow its farm sites. Fallowing reduces the chance
of disease outbreaks, such as infectious salmon anemia, and also allows the
sea floor beneath the sea cages to recover from fish farm wastes.
· Heritage will limit the number of fish it grows by capping the
"stocking density" of its cages at the time when fish are most susceptible
· Heritage will not discharge toxic substances in concentrations
identified by the state as toxic to aquatic organisms, and sediments may not
contain toxic substances originating from Heritage's farms at levels likely
to have an adverse impact on marine life.
· Prophylactic antibiotic use is prohibited, and Heritage must test
for antibiotic residues in local fish and shellfish. Also, detailed
information about any antibiotic use will be made publicly available.
· Heritage will not use experimental drugs and medicines without a
prior review and approval by an environmental agency.
· Heritage will not expand its operations to Penobscot Bay during the
life of the Consent Decree.
Many other husbandry practices and disease control measures are specified in
the consent decree, as are enhanced monitoring and public reporting
Heritage is also paying $375,000 to fund wild Atlantic salmon
restoration efforts in Washington County, where most salmon farms in Maine
are located. The U.S. government put Atlantic salmon on the Endangered
Species List in November 2000.
U.S. PIRG was represented in the lawsuit by the National
Environmental Law Center, which is headquartered in Boston, and Portland
attorney Bruce Merrill. U.S. PIRG is a nationwide public interest advocacy
group with approximately 1,000 members in Maine. The National Environmental
Law Center is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that represents
citizens and citizen groups in environmental enforcement suits.
Judgment upheld on appeal: $100,000 penalty; ban on growing non-native strains of salmon, mandatory fallowing to restore ocean sediments.
STOLT SEA FARMING, INC. and Atlantic Salmon of Maine, LLC