On Oct. 31, with considerable fanfare, Justice Bruce Cohen released his long-awaited report into the causes of the poor 2009 Fraser River sockeye salmon return.
At nearly 1,200 pages and with 75 recommendations to government, the report covers a wide range of issues.
Principal among them are the negative impacts of warming oceans and the non-implementation of DFO’s wild-salmon policy.
Cohen was clear in stating that there was no single cause and no “smoking gun” to explain the 2009 run. It is an oversimplification of this complex issue to assume the report zeroed in on any one factor.
In contrast to Cohen’s cautious but clear message are the responses from those opposed to aquaculture, who spin the report as an indictment of salmon farming. In fact, the report commends B.C. salmon farmers for collecting and providing an impressive 10-year fish-health database that allowed commission-appointed experts to conclude that there was no correlation between the health of farmed salmon and the decline of the sockeye. In fairness, the reviewers called for even more data so that with more information; a firmer conclusion of “unlikely effect” can be applied to this issue.
Salmon farmers expected to be asked to voluntarily provide fish-health data and we embrace this recommendation, as well as those describing the Discovery Islands research project. The public wants to be assured that salmon farming does not put sockeye salmon at risk and we intend to meet that request.
Clare Backman, Director, British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association, Campbell River