The $26 million Canadian federal inquiry led by Justice Bruce Cohen into the decline of Fraser River Sockeye released it's final report today. While the Justice correctly stated that there is no single "smoking gun" in the decline of Fraser sockeye he did raise major concerns about the impact of open-net pen aquaculture and the transmission of pathogens from farmed fish to wild salmon, suggesting that the federal government should now invest in research that can provide definitive and scientifically credible answers on what role fish farms are playing in sockeye declines. He also touched on the lack of resources and conflict of interest faced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as government has slashed funding to the once proud ministry and asked them to promote a salmon farming industry that conflicts directly with their core mandate to protect wild salmon and the fisheries they support.
Justice Cohen provided several concrete recommendations including placing a cap on new fish farm developments in the Discovery Islands - the primary migration route for outmigrating Fraser sockeye smolts - requiring fish farm operators to provide DFO with as many samples as the department deemed necessary for monitoring and research, and limiting farm tenures to one year. If by 2020 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has concluded that fish farms pose more than a minimal risk to Fraser River sockeye, Cohen concluded that DFO should prohibit open net pen aquaculture in the Discovery Islands altogether.
While the strongly worded findings left commercial fishermen and wild fish advocates elated, representatives from the BC salmon farmers association sought to downplay the findings. The Federal government also remained non-committal about taking action saying only that they are "studying" the findings, but for the time being there is hope that the costly, high profile judicial review will help bring about positive changes for salmon in the Fraser.
Read more in the Tyee:
and check out the full 1200 page report for yourself: