Cohen Commission Reports Out

After nearly three years of deliberations, the Cohen Commission reported out on its investigation into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River in 2009. Made public on October 31, 2012, the extensive report and recommendations concluded that it is improbable that there is one single cause that can explain the two-decade decline in productivity. Instead, Cohen concludes that after extensive investigation and research, the evidence appears to indicate that stressors specific to the Fraser River, and region-wide influences, may have contributed to the long-term decline in productivity.

Commissioner Cohen put forward 75 recommendations to improve the future sustainability of the fishery. In addition to requesting that further research be undertaken into the cumulative effects of specific stressors, Cohen recommended that:

• Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) should fully implement and fund the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy and the 1986 Habitat Policy;

• DFO should address the potential conflict between its mandates to promote and regulate salmon farms as well as to conserve wild fish stocks;

• DFO should impose a freeze on net-pen salmon farm production in the Discovery Islands until September 30, 2020;

• DFO should work with the Province to achieve the Riparian Areas Regulation target of 90% compliance with 90% confidence levels;

• DFO and Environment Canada should work cooperatively with BC municipalities on a public education campaign aimed at reducing toxicants in municipal wastewater; and

• Canada should finalize a regulatory strategy to limit the impact of wastewater biosolids on fisheries resources.

Other recommendations speak to determining the impact of gravel removal, forestry activities and pesticide use on fish habitat; transferring responsibility for post-emergency spill response; adjusting licensing regime to ensure all sectors pay their fair share; and allocating resources for fisheries enforcement.

Cohen also expressed concern about the federal government's decision to proceed with the Fisheries Act amendments in Bill C-38 before it had the opportunity to consider the Commission Report. Cohen notes …“revisions to the Fisheries Act shift the emphasis of the Act from protecting fish and the habitat necessary to sustain them to protecting fisheries.”

The full report and recommendations of the Cohen Commission is available at:

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