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Robert Allen used to run Alberta’s largest trout farm on the western borders of Calgary.
His business dates back to 1961, but Alberta Trout Inc. (formally Allen’s Trout Farm) has not hatched fish since 2013. That’s when the Elbow River’s floodwaters destroyed much of Allen’s property and the ponds from which about 250,000 fish were sold each year.
Allen’s property was quarantined by the province shortly after the flood, after the natural aquifer where he grows his fish was infected with swirling disease.
He is now suing the Alberta government, specifically the Ministry of Environment and Parks, alleging it “failed to control the spread of the disease,” which has had damaging effects on his fish stocks.
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The quarantine meant he could not supply fish to stock Alberta lakes and ponds for long.
“They knew the disease was in the river and they didn’t do anything about it,” Allen said.
He said he refused the government’s offer: a $75,000 ex-gratia payment. He suggested the money was nowhere near enough to cover his annual expenses, let alone wages.
“I have big payments to make and to keep these fish alive,” Allen said. “I’m down to where I can’t afford to feed them.”
Allen still sells the strange fish to wholesalers for food. He said most restaurants and other buyers will only take the fish stuffed.
“There’s just no licensed place to do it,” Allen said. “There’s nothing. It’s quite sobering,”
The province has yet to file a statement of defense and said in a statement: “[i]It would be inappropriate to comment at this time because the matter is currently before the courts.”
The case is expected to be heard on October 18.
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