Monday, 20 June 2016

Cohen Commission - BC Still Waiting for DFO to Wake Up

Several years past the end of the Cohen Commission and nothing has been done on the recommendations from this $26.4 Million commission into decline of Fraser River Sockeye.

I launched an Environmental Petition through the federal Auditor General in late 2013. It is worthwhile taking a look at the text once more, since Justin Trudeau and Dominic LeBlanc have yet to require staff to take fish farms out of BC waters. And you will know from recent posts that, sadly, HSMI has been confirmed in BC - a disease from Norway, infectitious for wild salmon.

My petition is number 353. The link is below.

From the AG site, here is the article I wrote at the time:
Title of Petition: DFO Response to the Cohen Commission Report into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye, BC. 

Background Information:

The Government of Canada spent $26.4 Million on, supplied 500,000 documents to and 3.3 million pages of text were reviewed by the Cohen Commission which then wrote and submitted an unprecedented 1,200 page document with 75 recommendations of scheduled times, funding and resources required to bring back Fraser River Sockeye in BC. After a year of no response from DFO, I wrote the following article on the Cohen Commission Report for the Times Colonist Newspaper, BC on October 16, 2013:

Cohen Commission One Year Later

You may have thought the Cohen report was a stone dropped through DFO leaving not a ripple. You’d be right. Google DFO Cohen Commission and what you find is everyone else in the country commenting loudly but nothing from DFO. Go directly to DFO and search, and the result is virtually the same. Page after page of nothing about the Commission – a year of silence so far.

At the time, DFO swamped the Commission with 500,000 documents. But after Cohen completed the intended sessions, the first result for the Atlantic Ocean fish farm disease ISA was demonstrated in two wild sockeye fry from Owikeno Lake, Rivers Inlet. Then one contentious document DFO failed to give Cohen was leaked: a study showing ISA in dozens of wild BC salmon, co-authored by Molly Kibenge, then with DFO in Nanaimo.

Cohen reopened the hearings and the full extent of fish farm diseases cascaded out. The science experts K. Miller, F. Kibenge and A. Nylund were interviewed. Miller’s work noted literally hundreds of thousands of fish with ISA and HSMI in Clayoquot Sound farmed chinook and SLV phenotype ‘viral signature’ back to 1988 in Fraser sockeye. Today there are only 501 wild chinook in Clayoquot and up to 90% of some Fraser sockeye subcomponents die of pre-spawn mortality.

With this knowledge in hand, the focus of the most important recommendations in the 1,200 page tome – 75 in total, pages 105 – 115, Volume 3 – came to centre on constraining and removing Discovery Island fish farms near Campbell River, and for DFO to relinquish its conflicting role of supporting fish farms and put its full effort into implementing the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, and the 1986 Habitat Policy. The report says there should be a new western director general charged with bringing back Fraser sockeye: CohenCommissionFinalReport_Vol03_02.pdf#zoom=100.

Since then, the CFIA started a perfunctory job of looking at a few thousand fish, and saying it could not find ISA – this after Cohen testimony discredited its lab as not being able to find ISA. And DFO? It’s moved on to aquaculture. The performance measure, wait for it, is: A transparent regulatory regime for aquaculture in British Columbia and an Integrated Management Plan for finfish, and shellfish, by March 2014.

And the latest Norwegian related fish disease has just been shown to be present in BC wild salmon – PRV in Virology Journal, 2013. This may be worse than ISA, as it is the virus associated with heart and skeletal muscle inflammation – HSMI, developed circa 1999 in Norway. This is what those yellow pink salmon and the dying pre-spawn Fraser chum and sockeye are now being shown to have. Sadly, a large pre-spawn sockeye die-off occurred for the first time in the Skeena River in the past couple of months.

You can support the cost of testing all these fish, as hundreds of BC citizens, including me, are doing, on Alex Morton`s blog. She has this to say: “The Commission changed my life, I am tracking three European viruses, publishing on them in top scientific journals and informing the scientific community. Government is increasingly lagging behind and irrelevant to the science on salmon.”
I understand that Miller and B. Riddell (CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation), good smart people, will be co-authoring a report on fish farm/wild diseases. Unfortunately, for them and us, fish farms, DFO, and CFIA will be parsing the news releases.

This is the link to the Petition:

I asked for disaggregated budgets and full time equivalents for each recommendation. I received generic pap, no disaggregated budgets and no staff numbers per recommendation. I know it is generic pap because I used to generate generic pap for the government when I worked there in the past.

I will post DFO responses shortly.

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