Steeves/Trail Mix: MPs now can decide whether to conserve B.C. salmon

With release this week of the three-volume Cohen report on conservation of the Fraser River salmon fishery, it's now up to the politicians.

It won’t satisfy the most radical environmentalists, nor those on the opposite end of the spectrum, but it’s a measured, thoughtful, firm set of recommendations to save the salmon.

Commissioner Bruce Cohen made 75 recommendations to improve the future sustainability of the Fraser River salmon fishery, following more than two years of hearings and nearly a thousand submissions by the public, in a 1,191-page report.

Although he stopped short of calling for removal of all net-pen fish farms in the Discovery Islands off the coast of B.C., he did recommend a freeze on salmon farm production in the area until scientific work is completed into the impacts of such aquatic farms on migrating wild stocks.

That must be completed before Sept. 30, 2020 and if by then the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can’t confidently say the risk of serious harm to wild stocks is minimal, then all net-pen salmon farms should be prohibited there.

If it’s discovered before then that the salmon farms pose more than a minimal risk, the existing farms should be removed immediately, he wrote.

He also wrote of his concerns about recent changes to the environmental assessment process and to the Fisheries Act in the federal omnibus budget bill that raised so much controversy.

Immediately, he recommended the fisheries minister should get his ministry out of the business of promoting salmon farming, in order that its mandate to conserve salmon stocks not be in conflict with that role.

A new position should be established in the ministry to implement the Wild Salmon Policy which was released seven years ago to maintain biodiversity in Pacific salmon species and conserve stocks.

That new associate regional director-general should publish a detailed plan for implementing the policy by Mar. 31, 2013, he recommended.

He also made recommendations regarding funding, fishing and licensing, collection of fish health data from salmon farms and he recommended specific research be done to establish the likelihood of the farms contributing to the decline in Fraser River sockeye stocks.

Rather than a single cause to the problem of declining stocks, Cohen listed a perfect storm of issues plaguing the iconic B.C. fish.

To read the entire, three-volume report, go to: www.cohencommission.ca

If the federal government implements all the recommendations of the Cohen Commission inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, I’m confident the state of those stocks would improve markedly over time, and if we’re not too late.

It may require some pressure from those of us who care about conservation of this precious stock to help our MPs make the decision to implement all his recommendations, so I would suggest you drop a quick note to your local MP and to the fisheries minister making that suggestion—just so they know it’s an issue that’s even important to those of us living far from the Fraser.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the fisheries portfolio is being ‘caretaken’ by minister for national revenue Gail Shea, since the recently-appointed minister, Keith Ashfield, who hails from New Brunswick, just suffered a heart attack.

She’s another MP who lives far, far from the Fraser, (on the east coast) but you can reach her at: gail.shea@parl.gc.ca

Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas can be reached at: dan.albas@parl.gc.ca, while Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan can be reached at: ron.cannan@parl.gc.ca

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

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