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B.C. Government Accepts Cohen Commission Recommendations

25 March 2013

CANADA - In response to the Cohen Commission recommendations, the British Columbia government has accepted the intent of each of the eight recommendations that directly reference the Province.

On the 31 October, 2012, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was made publically available. The report includes 75 recommendations regarding the policies, practices and procedures of the federal government's Fisheries and Oceans Canada, eight of which directly or indirectly reference the Province of British Columbia.

The Pacific salmon was recently declared the provincial fish emblem to recognize the high ecological, cultural and economic significance of the Pacific salmon to British Columbians.

The B.C. government accepted, or accepted the intent of recommendations regarding various aspects of riparian area management and compliance and enforcement, the Water Act, marine habitat spill response, agriculture and forestry pesticide record keeping, and that the monitoring of industrial and wastewater management includes consideration for sockeye salmon.

In addition, the B.C. government's response notes the Province has no intention of issuing any new tenure agreements for net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands until 30 September, 2020.

Norm Letnick, Minister of Agriculture, stated: "These responses support the B.C. government's commitment to the ecologically responsible management of B.C. fisheries, including an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry that benefits all British Columbians."

Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director, BC Salmon Farmers Association, responded to the announcement, saying: “As we described in a press release in November 2012, the final report of the Cohen Commission into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye lays solid ground for protecting the future of the iconic salmon run. The province’s announcement today provides clarity on their areas of responsibility for fisheries.

"Our farmers continue to farm in the most responsible way every day and have demonstrated that commitment consistently. The provincial government knows this, as they regulated salmon farming until 2010, introducing the strictest regulations in the world.

"These recommendations are all about protecting wild salmon, which is central to the work that we do each day on our farms. We support more research in Discovery Islands area and are confident it will only continue to prove what we've seen to date: no impact of our farms on wild salmon.

"Commissioner Cohen emphasises in his report that there was no single cause for the poor 2009 return of Fraser River Sockeye, but he draws attention to topics that are either at issue or that need further information to understand any potential impact. Warming water temperatures was called the “elephant in the room,” while the risk of enhancement hatchery fish was also highlighted as serious risk.

"We recognise the importance of working to resolve any outstanding questions. We are participating in research being done by Genome BC and other research projects to further understand wild and aquaculture fish health. Our fish have been shown to be very healthy and as Justice Cohen recognised we have excellent data to support this. Cohen also acknowledged that the mountains of evidence presented at his Commission showed no link between farmed salmon and fluctuations in wild salmon populations,” concluded Ms Walling.

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