We’re in the final stretch of the Cohen Commission hearings.

Although the federal inquiry into the 2009 decline of Fraser sockeye numbers wrapped up last month, the Commission will hear an additional three days (Dec. 15, 16 and 19) of evidence related to Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus monitoring and testing.

The virus, which is highly infectious and has decimated Atlantic salmon stocks, made headlines two months ago when Simon Fraser University professor Rick Routledge discovered it in two of 48 sockeye samples taken off of British Columbia’s central coast.

The discovery set off a firestorm of controversy and renewed concerns over salmon farm practices.

Earlier this month, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said their testing indicates that no confirmed cases of the disease have been found in B.C. wild or farmed salmon.

Other tests refute those findings. Tests conducted more than decade ago found ISA in more than 100 fish in B.C. The food inspection agency has since dismissed those results, saying they are unconfirmed.

Ecojustice will be at the ISA hearings, representing a coalition of conservation groups. In our final submission to the Commission we have called on the federal government to live up to its mandate to protect and restore Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks, by shifting effort and funding back to science and conservation rather than promoting and funding industries like aquaculture.

The submission includes recommendations that DFO remove open net-cage fish farms from along sockeye migration routes. Other key recommendations include limiting fishing rates on endangered stocks and adopting a comprehensive research program, to focus on the cumulative impacts of temperature, habitat loss and chemical contaminants on salmon and their habitat.