VANCOUVER — The Government of Canada must take a hard line and ensure that recommendations arising from the Cohen commission into declining Fraser River salmon stocks do not fall by the wayside, Ecojustice said today.
During the past three decades, declining Fraser River sockeye stocks have been the focus and subject of at least 25 federal post-harvest reviews. In every case, specific measures have been identified that, if implemented, would halt the declines. However, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has repeatedly failed to act on most, if not all, of these recommendations.
Conservation groups fear the Cohen commission will simply repeat history.
“The tragedy is not that we’ve failed to study the reasons for these declines,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Tim Leadem. “The true tragedy is that we have invested a huge amount of time and resources into efforts to find solutions and to prevent the declines, but Canada has failed to enact the recommendations in any meaningful way.”
Previous commissions have identified that, among other factors, habitat destruction, increasing water temperatures, interrupted migration routes, poor aquaculture planning, water pollution and over-fishing are key reasons for the observed declines in salmon populations.
“A fundamental starting point for this commission would be to assess DFO’s implementation, or lack thereof, of past recommendations. The commission must also ensure that the recommendations it eventually issues are put into practice and do not end up collecting dust in DFO’s library,” said John Werring, aquatic habitat specialist for the David Suzuki Foundation. “The time for study is over. It’s time to take action.”
Ecojustice will represent six conservations groups and one individual during the inquiry: Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, David Suzuki Foundation, Fraser Riverkeeper Society, Georgia Strait Alliance, Raincoast Conservation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and Mr. Otto Langer.