Wild Salmon (spawning sockeye)

Cohen Inquiry recommendations lay groundwork for salmon recovery


Report condemns gov't policy inaction, highlights risks from salmon farms

October 31, 2012

VANCOUVER BC - The recommendations of the Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye released today make clear that though there was no ‘smoking gun', there are multiple threats that need to be addressed to ensure the long-term health of the Fraser River sockeye. In 75 broad ranging and specific recommendations, Commissioner Cohen gave the federal government an action blue print, ranging for the long overdue implementation of the Wild Salmon policy to actions to ensure that the risk from open net cage salmon farms are minimized.

"Even though the Commissioner acknowledges the complexity of the stressors on these salmon, his recommendations are strong and identify key actions that the federal government needs to take," says Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director, Georgia Strait Alliance.   "Overall, we are pleased that the Commissioner heard the evidence before him, and that he clearly highlighted what needs to be done to protect salmon in BC."

Commissioner Cohen indicated that stressors both local and regional may have had impact on the salmon but knowledge gaps make it hard to find the "smoking gun".  In particular he acknowledged that the impacts and interactions of contaminants, disease and warming waters cannot be clearly stated, but are likely serious.

In other recommendations, theCommissioner was critical of DFO's role as promoter of salmon farms while it is also responsible for protection of wild salmon, and recommends that the responsibility for promoting aquaculture be moved to another agency.  He also made clear that the Wild Salmon Policy and Habitat Policy (1986) must be implemented fully.  Currently no one is responsible for their implementation and this must change.

"British Columbians value salmon greatly and it is incumbent on the federal government to act immediately on the recommendations to ensure their health for future generations," says Wilhelmson.  "The Commissioner criticized the federal government for weakening the Fisheries Act - in particular without his recommendations completed - and we add our voice to his asking that the government change tack, and protect habitat for the long-term health of our salmon."

Between November 2009 and December 2011, the Cohen Commission held public hearings into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River. The intention of the recommendations was to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Fraser River Sockeye.  

Formed in 1990, Georgia Strait Alliance (www.georgiastrait.org) is the only citizens' group working to protect and restore the marine environment and promote the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters and communities, the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play.

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For more information:

Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director
cell: 604 862 7579
office: 604 633 0530