Cohen Commission of Inquiry…

…into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River

Cohen Commission of Inquiry In 2009, an expected sockeye salmon return of 10.5 million instead yielded only 1.5 million. Even in the context of a steady rate of decline for salmon stocks over the past two decades, this was clearly a disaster.

On November 5, 2009, the Governor in Council issued an Order in Council setting out the Terms of Reference for the Cohen Commission, formally named the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. The Honourable Bruce Cohen, a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, was appointed Commissioner under Part 1 of the Inquiries Act.

Inquiry Highlights:
(video – Commission website)

• Synopsis of Key Evidence
from the Commission of Inquiry

– July, 2012 – Watershed-Watch Salmon Society

• Final Report (3 volumes)
– Oct 29, 2012 – Commissioner Bruce Cohen

“When one government department (in this case, DFO) has mandates both to conserve wild stocks and to promote salmon farming, there are circumstances in which it may find itself in a conflict of interest because of divided loyalties.

Although DFO also has an interest in promoting the wild fishery and its products, that interest is tempered by its duty to conserve those same wild stocks. Promoting salmon farms while protecting wild stocks is qualitatively different because there are no inherent checks and balances. Promotion of salmon farms might in some circumstances, prejudice the health of wild salmon stocks. As long as DFO has a mandate to promote salmon farming, there is a risk that it will act in a manner that favours the interests of the salmon-farming industry over the health of wild fish stocks. The only way to address this potential conflict is by removing from DFO’s mandate the promotion of the salmon-farming industry and farmed salmon products, and by transferring the promotion of salmon farming to a different part of the Executive Branch of government.”
Cohen Report – Executive Summary (p.6)
On October 31st, 2012, after 18 months of testimony and $26 million, the Cohen Commission’s Final Report “The Uncertain Future of the Fraser River Sockeye” was released. The Report was heralded as a blueprint for salmon conservation, providing 75 recommendations to Government, many involving deadlines and milestones.

“In a massive three-volume document, Judge Cohen called for a freeze on fish-farm development in the Discovery Islands, says farms should not be located near salmon migration routes, and raises the possibility that salmon farming could be banned completely if research shows the industry poses an unacceptable risk to wild stocks.”
Commission presses Ottawa to curb
fish-farm impact on sockeye

– Oct.31, 2012 – Globe and Mail

Cohen Highlights Report
– Watershed-Watch Salmon Society
Keeps facts revealed at the Inquiry on the front burner and is a permanent record easily accessible to the public.

Cohen Report Card
– Watershed-Watch Salmon Society
Grades Government performance regarding the Cohen Final Report recommendations and deadlines.

Cohen Commission website is gone

Nov. 17, 2013: Cohen Commission website becomes unavailable, appears to be taken down.
petition: Restore the COHEN COMMMISSION Website

Watershed-Watch Salmon Society
Cohen Inquiry Media
(news stories from W-W website)

B.C. Government Moratorium on Salmon Farm Licenses

“The B.C. government says it has no intention of approving any new agreements for net-pen salmon farms near the Discovery Islands.
The promise stems from recommendations in the Cohen Commission report specifically aimed at British Columbia’s management of salmon.
One of those recommendations was a freeze on net-pen salmon production in the Broughton archipelago.”
B.C. won’t approve new net-pen salmon farms
following Cohen report

– Oct.31, 2012 – Globe and Mail

B.C. Government Responds to
Cohen Recommendations

(addressing Recommendations, directly or indirectly referencing Provincial Government)

Federal Government Idle on Cohen Recommendations, Moves Backwards in Fisheries Act

“One year after the release of a public inquiry report on the decline of Fraser River sockeye, wild salmon advocates – including a former Conservative fisheries minister – say Ottawa hasn’t taken meaningful action on its recommendations.”
Ottawa hasn’t acted on salmon report, critics say
– Oct.31, 2013 – Globe and Mail

“Under the revised FA (Fisheries Act), fish that inhabit lakes, rivers, and streams that are not regularly visited by humans do not warrant protection. This means a vast area of Canadian wilderness will fall outside the law.”
Scientists say new fisheries law “guts” protection for habitat
– Nov.1.2013 – Ottawa Citizen

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