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Alberta fish farmer suing province over impacts of ‘failing to control’ whirling disease

Global News logo Global News 2022-09-21 Sarah Offin
Robert Allen feeds his remaining fish at his trout farm in Calgary. He is suing the province after his farm was quarantined for whirling disease following the 2013 flood. © Alex Cummings, Global News Robert Allen feeds his remaining fish at his trout farm in Calgary. He is suing the province after his farm was quarantined for whirling disease following the 2013 flood.

Robert Allen used to run Alberta's biggest trout farm on the western limits of Calgary.

His business dates back to 1961, but Alberta Trout Inc. (formally Allen's Trout Farm) hasn't hatched fish since 2013. That's when the Elbow River's floodwaters destroyed much of Allen's property and the ponds from which some 250,000 fish were sold every year.

Allen's property was quarantined by the province shortly after the flood, after the natural aquifer where he grows his fish was contaminated with whirling disease.

He's now suing the Alberta government, specifically the Ministry of Environment and Parks, suggesting it "failed to control" the spread of the disease, which had damaging effects on his fish stocks.

Read more:

Alberta survey looks for impact of whirling disease on Bow River

The quarantine meant he could no long supply fish to stock Alberta lakes and ponds.

"They knew that the disease was in the river and they didn't do nothing about it," said Allen.

He said he refused the government's offer: a $75,000 ex-gratia payment. He suggested the money wasn't nearly enough to cover his annual expenses, let alone wages.

"I've got big payments to pay and to keep these fish alive," said Allen. "I'm down to where I can't afford to feed them."

Allen still sells the odd fish to wholesalers for food. He said most restaurants and other buyers will only take the fish fillleted.

"There's just no licensed place to do it," said Allen. "There's nothing. It's kind of disheartening,"

The province has yet to file a statement of defence and said in a statement, "[i]t would be inappropriate to comment at this time because the matter is currently before the courts."

The case is scheduled to be heard Oct. 18.

Video: Bow River survey looks for impact of whirling disease

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