BC salmon facing bleak future on first anniversary of Cohen Commission Report

Today marks one year since the release of the final report of the Cohen Commission into the alarming decline of Fraser River Sockeye populations, and despite the report’s strong recommendations, the future for BC’s wild salmon is looking more uncertain than ever.

Led by Justice Bruce Cohen, this 3-year inquiry included testimony from scientists, First Nations, and the public in developing a landmark three-volume report of more than 1,000 pages, at a cost of over $26 million.

The report presented 75 policy recommendations for combating the multiple threats to the survival of British Columbia’s wild salmon. One year later, almost none of these recommendations have been implemented.

On March 19, Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich – Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, called on then-Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield to act on the report recommendations, and urged the Harper Conservatives to “start protecting wild salmon instead of hurrying them along a path to extinction.”

Now, seven months later, current Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has yet to respond to the report, or even acknowledge having received it – an oversight that May calls “shocking.” “There is a long-standing parliamentary tradition that Ministers acknowledge receipt of a report and thank the Commissioner,” said the Green Party Leader “The fact that this Government continues to completely ignore the results of the Cohen Commission is frankly appalling, particularly in light of its enormous cost to taxpayers. Minister Shea must act to protect wild salmon before it’s too late.”

The Commission found that temperature increases in the Fraser River, likely as a result of climate change, were having a significant negative effect on the river’s Sockeye salmon stocks. The report also emphasized the need for far more stringent monitoring of local salmon farming operations, and recommended that fish farms be removed from Sockeye migratory areas.