By David Suzuki
As the days get cooler and shorter, millions of salmon are making the arduous journey up the rivers and streams of British Columbia (B.C.) to the spawning grounds where they were born. Waiting for this rich pulse of life from the Pacific Ocean are bears, gulls, wolves, eagles, ospreys, crows, pine martins and dozens of other species. Communities and businesses wait, too. It’s fitting that this time of year also marks the first anniversary of the final report of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.
The record decline in sockeye returning to the Fraser River in 2009 provided the initial push for a federal judicial inquiry. Now, four years later, the offspring of those salmon are returning to spawning grounds in dismally low numbers—so low that sockeye salmon fishery closures are widespread.
What happened to Justice Bruce Cohen’s 75 carefully crafted recommendations to rebuild Pacific salmon? What will happen to the industry and communities that depend on them?
The Cohen Commission took three years, 2,145 exhibits, 892 public submissions and 138 days of hearings with 180 witnesses to create its report. The David Suzuki Foundation worked with lawyers at Ecojustice to provide research and testimony to help ensure the inquiry looked into problems within the current management system. With optimism that the federal government was taking the decline of wild salmon seriously, this independent and thorough review created a blueprint for action. What had become a contentious and polarizing issue had a direction forward.
That clear direction, however, has been followed with near silence and little effort from the government. Although politicians say they’re reviewing the report and taking actions “consistent with the recommendations,” the few steps they have taken, such as providing grants for research projects, miss the mark and don’t address the significant issues and opportunities raised by Justice Cohen. More....