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Cohen Commission Report Gets a Solid “B” Grade from the Wilderness Committee

VANCOUVER – The long-awaited release of the final report from the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River contains several encouraging elements, but should go further when it comes to open-net cage salmon farms, according to the Wilderness Committee, in an Oct 31, 2012 news release.
      Notable recommendations from the report include a freeze on new salmon feedlots in the Discovery Island region, fully implementing wild salmon and habitat protection policies that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has already committed to, and calling for better and more open research on the specific effects of salmon aquaculture on wild stocks.
Matters have been complicated by the fact that DFO, while mandated to protect wild fish, was also mandated to promote the aquaculture industry. Justice Cohen pointed out this conflict of interest and recommended that DFO’s first priority be the protection of wild salmon stocks and the promotion of the aquaculture industry be shifted to another branch of government.
“Justice Cohen essentially told DFO to get back into the business of protecting wild salmon; that includes improving habitat protection, getting cracking on the science, and getting rid of the agency’s mandate to promote salmon aquaculture,” said Gwen Barlee, Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee. “What remains to be seen is if the federal government will actually implement Justice Cohen’s recommendations.”
Although Justice Bruce Cohen’s report made many important and progressive recommendations, the question remains whether or not these recommendations will be acted on by the federal government —particularly now that regulatory oversight has been dramatically weakened with the cutting of DFO staff and the reduction of key protections in the Fisheries Act and the Canadians Environmental Assessment Act.
“The recommendation to put a freeze on new salmon farms around the Discovery Islands is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough,” said Torrance Coste, the Wilderness Committee’s Vancouver Island Campaigner. “What we want to see is real and permanent protection for wild salmon, and that means shutting down open-net salmon farms altogether.”
To view the final report from the Cohen Commission, visit www.cohencommission.ca