From Globe & Mail, Tuesday, June 7, 2011: Testimony by witnesses and a series of government e-mails filed as evidence in the Cohen Commission inquiry in BC show that the research gap has long been viewed with concern and frustration by DFO scientists.

Robie Macdonald, the DFO section head of marine environmental quality at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, told the Cohen Commission that a reorganization of the department in 2005 led to a “withdrawal” of the DFO from contaminant monitoring nationally.A cutout of a sockeye salmon is raised above the crowd during a demonstration to coincide with the start of the Cohen Commission Inquiry into the 2009 decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. - A cutout of a sockeye salmon is raised above the crowd during a demonstration to coincide with the start of the Cohen Commission Inquiry into the 2009 decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. | Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press Many thought Environment Canada would fill in where the DFO had left off, but that didn’t occur, Mr. Macdonald said.

Wendy Baker, a lawyer for the Cohen Commission, asked him if monitoring for contaminants is important.  “Monitoring is actually one of the ways you can see what’s happening in the environment,” he said. “Monitoring is really the key tool to tell you whether [government] regulation has had [the desired] effect.”

Mr. Macdonald said it is important to know what chemicals are out there because many contaminants, while not directly toxic to salmon, can build up in fish and prove fatal in the long term. “What we’re talking about here is sub-lethal [contaminants] … they fly under the death radar … and yet they may be every bit as risky for fish in their life cycle,” he said. He said fish can accumulate an array of contaminants without any obvious ill effect.”  >>> read full story

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