THE Chief Justice has approved an agreed settlement between the Falkland Islands Government and Unity Marine Limited, requiring a public consultation on salmon farming to go ahead.
In a press statement the Falkland Islands Government announced that by “mutual consent” the two parties agreed to “dispose of the claim brought by Unity Marine Ltd” and an Order was issued by the Chief Justice.
The claim submitted by the fishing company was challenging an Executive Council decision from March 2022 which made a number of provisions, including that ExCo were, “not minded to agree any large-scale fish farming in the Falkland Islands” and “not minded to approve any fish-farming that involves the introduction of further new species to the Falkland Islands.”
At the time Unity Marine responded criticising the decision-making process stating, “the lack of any due process and balanced consultation should be a matter of grave concern,” after claiming that they were asked by FIG to “not engage with the community” during a previous information gathering process.
The press release this week detailed the agreement between FIG and Unity Marine made in May 2024; stating that, “Government had previously given an expectation that there would be a full public consultation on the issue prior to a decision being made.
“The Government accept that a full public consultation should be held before a further decision is made on the issue.”
Chair of the Assembly MLA Pete Biggs was quoted in the press statement as saying they are “naturally disappointed to be where we are, but we want a decision which is secure from future challenge and we believe that a full public consultation will help that to take shape.”
Unity Marine responded to the announcement in their own press release saying, “Unity Marine welcome the decision by FIG to engage in a full public consultation on large-scale aquaculture.
“We look forward to engaging with FIG and the community throughout this process.”
Their statement concluded with Director of Unity Marine James Wallace stating, “We recognise this subject raises strong feelings … and hope people see this decision in the right light … it is an opportunity to calmly explore a potential new industry.
“If at the end of this process the community’s concerns cannot be sufficiently addressed I have no doubt that the Government’s final decision will reflect that accordingly.”
Penguin News asked both FIG and Unity Marine for an interview on this subject, however both declined to comment further.
MLA Pete Biggs did accept an interview and explained, “We are a democracy and any decision made can be challenged through democratic processes, judicial reviews are one of those.”
When asked for further details about when and how the public consultation would fit in with other government work streams MLA Biggs said, “We are under a lot of pressure at the moment … it will be a little while before we can get going on this but when we do there will be a timetable set.”
MLA Biggs added that at the time of the 2022 ExCo decision, “It wasn’t totally clear to MLAs and some of the Government officers just what had happened before” and “We will go through the whole thing again, but do it more thoroughly to make sure everybody’s happy with it this time.”
The costs of the judicial review process and the settlement were not announced but an FIG spokesperson confirmed that, “A final sum has not been reached, but we have agreed to pay Unity Marine Limited’s reasonable legal costs associated with bringing the claim.
“We have also incurred costs in obtaining external legal advice. Once a final figure is known, we will be happy to be clear what this is.”