Some of the most vocal critics of fish farming on the West Coast are teaming up to stop the provincial government from having the authority to regulate fish farms.

Biologist Alexandra Morton and an association of gillnetters, the Vessels Owners Association and the Wilderness Tourism Association, filed a petition this morning in B.C. Supreme Court.

The petition will challenge the right of the B.C. government to regulate fish farms and issue licenses.

The planned legal action comes just weeks after a report on sea lice farming in B.C.'s inner coastal waters. The report indicates that the infestation near Campbell River fish farms has spread beyond pink and chum salmon to juvenile sockeye and herring.

The petition also calls for a judicial review to prevent the government from renewing leases on existing fish farms. The groups believe the authority to regulate fish farms should be in the hands of the federal government, not the province.

"While the BC government has no role or responsibility for wild salmon, they collect the lease revenue from fish farms and have self-interest in the expansion of the industry," says Morton.

"This arrangement is fatal to wild salmon and must change immediately," she says.

Fish farm opponents say there are 22 fish farms operating with expired leases in the Broughton Archipelago, near the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Morton says despite the negative impacts of the farms at their current size, many have applied to increase their size and production.

"This industry is impacting wild salmon at its current size, expansion is indefensible," she says.

Greg McDade is heading up a litigation team representing the groups. He says they have a strong chance of winning the constitutional challenge in court.

"We think there is a very strong chance of success and we are turning to the courts because DFO is basically abdicated their responsibility over the fish.''

A University of Alberta study published in the journal Science December 14 showed a rapid decline in wild salmon stocks due to parasitic sea lice infections caused by nearby fish farms.

Scientists who worked on the study predicted a 99 percent collapse of wild salmon stock in another four years, or two salmon generations, if infestations persist.

With files from The Canadian Press