Fisheries Minister's weak response to salmon inquiry petition

Fisheries Minister’s weak response to Cohen Commission petition

Fisheries Minister's weak response to salmon inquiry petition
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea thinks everything is A-ok with DFO (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

I registered the first Environmental Petition (a protocol, not list of names) on the Cohen Report with the federal Auditor General late last fall, and have received the first reply from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). My request was specific, technical, and DFO was required to respond in 120 days – and it did! – on the last day, March 26, 2014.

Here is what I asked:

[quote]1. It is one year since the $26.4 Million Cohen Commission on Decline of Fraser River Sockeye delivered its report to DFO. One year later, I would like to know: What concrete results, and detail them individually, with associated timelines and funding that DFO has committed or expensed to resolve each of the 75 environmental recommendations in the three volume Cohen Report on the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye. The recommendations are pages 105 – 115, of Volume 3. I am speaking of the boldfaced recommendations and the concrete results DFO has taken to achieve each of the 75 recommendations that can also be found in a Cohen PDF of Chapter 2, Volume Three.[/quote]

You will note the important phrase: concrete results and the specifics in red above. I asked for concrete details, concrete funding commitments, concrete numbers of people committed, timelines achieved and individual responses to each and every Cohen recommendation. All 75.

Read the rest of my petition here.

Read what I got back:

It is non-specific mush designed to anaesthetize and give the impression of a potentially plausible positive possibility, while committing, not so much. I used to work for government and it was my job to generate the same milquetoast so everyone got the same story every single time.

So in ‘themes’, here are Gail Shea’s first words:

[quote]Theme: Mandate

Related to Recommendations 1, 2 and 3

The roles and responsibilities of the Minister and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to decisions related to fisheries management and fish habitat within federal jurisdiction are clearly communicated to First Nations, other governments and stakeholders. This includes making conservation the first priority in the delivery of regulatory responsibilities.[/quote]

Really? Sorry, Gail, but on recommendations 1, 2 and 3, Cohen says that the weakening of the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, removed a lot of the DFO minister’s ultimate authority (Volume 3, Chapter 3). I would add that if ‘conservation’, was a primary concern, DFO would have taken fish farms out of the water a long time ago.

Justice Cohen: Harper govt weakened fish protections

Cohen goes on to say the ‘omnibus’ bill changes weakened habitat restoration… and even if it hadn’t that DFO doesn’t have the money and people to do much, even though its Wild Salmon Policy says it must. Cohen notes that in seven years since generating the policy, DFO has gotten nowhere on implementation. Testifying, the western director could not confirm any action in the next 2 to five years, as in, the Wild Salmon Policy is off the table, even though Shea says it is not.

In the inconvenient evidence – Cohen evidence is that rare text where once on the record, it is there as incontrovertible fact forever – Cohen notes, among other things, that changes to the Fisheries Act took it from being very strong legislation for environmental protection for salmon and made it the weakest legislation.

DFO’s conflict of interest

Furthermore, DFO has (Volume 3, Chapter 2, P 11) internal confusion on doing conservation work. And its Science Branch spends too much time and resources on clients like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that have no conservation need. So the legislation is bad, the money is bad, and the focus is bad.

Cohen goes on to say in recommendation 2 that DFO should be stripped of its conflict of interest in supporting fish farms and should focus only on wild salmon. He said that DFO was spending more time and resources on the tiny fish farm sector (only 795 actual jobs) than on wild salmon in BC (P11), for Pete’s sake.

Furthermore, he said DFO should not put any fish farm in the water – nor leave any farm in the sea – if it can’t eliminate risks to wild salmon beforehand. The task falls to that confused, poorly funded Science Branch.

Aquaculture industry nets tax dollars for dead, diseased fish

You may recall that in Clayoquot Sound there are 22 fish farms. We, the taxpayer, paid Norwegian derivative fish farms $5.56 million for their dead diseased fish last year in BC (over $50 Million across Canada). Near Tofino, there are only 501 wild chinook left in six streams and the Kennedy Lake sockeye run has been wiped out. This is where Dr. Kristi Miller found 25% of farmed chinook had the killer diseases ISA and HSMI. Little wonder there are no wild salmon left.

DFO likes to say it is following Cohen – that fish farm ‘moratorium’ in the Discovery Islands, for example – but it does not come clean that it set his terms of reference and limited him to only one species of salmon in only one river, the Fraser. What this means is that his report should be taken as applying to all of BC.

Cohen zeroes in on fish farms

In Cohen’s complete list of 75 recommendations, the first 22 regard fish farms, that’s how big a problem he considers them. And Shea has not instituted the western director general Cohen called for to cover wild salmon and habitat restoration. The rest of her answers are the same bland stuff that we spent $26 Million to get. Wild BC salmon deserve more.


About DC Reid

DC is a poet, novelist, sport fishing and fisheries policy writer, who has won numerous awards over the years. His houses some 15,000 pages of science on the environmental damage caused by open-net fish farms in BC and around the world. He reads up to 100 pages of global fish farm news every week to stay informed. DC won the Art Downs Award for 2012 for sustained, outstanding writing on environmental issues with respect to fish farms. The award was based on 10 columns on fish farm issues in the Times Colonist newspaper, three submissions to the Cohen Commission on Fraser sockeye and his blog,

13 thoughts on “Fisheries Minister’s weak response to Cohen Commission petition

  1. I agree with the comment about a day of action. I enjoyed hearing a New Zealand story about a Boat Blockade that was able to stop and off shore rig. And, I count me in for a blockade that protects salmon and keeps them healthy. Suggest folks check out Fraser River Water Keepers short speech of .John F. Kennedy Jr. Intrsting that he refers to sick fish as child abuse. He has a good example of how 300 WW11 vets met at the Legion and hatched what turned out to be a success to stop industrial dumping in the Hudson River.

  2. Interesting how Shea supports the lobster fishery despite the potential for damage to the industry cited in a CBC article. “Bay of Fundy lobster fishermen are concerned that a pesticide designed to rid the waters of sea lice on farmed salmon could hurt their own catches.”

    She states from the PEI website: : “According to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Honourable Gail Shea, “The Government of Canada is pleased to support industry efforts that maximize the economic value, improve international competitiveness, and ensure sustainability of Canadian fisheries with support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I look forward to meeting with my Provincial counterparts and industry members to discuss the Department’s role in response to the Maritime Lobster Panel Report and am committed to working under the leadership of industry and with the support of the Provinces to advancing the lobster fishery.””

  3. I guess thats why we have Shea back for her second stint as fisheries minister,she’s better at baffelgab and bullshit….or prostitution

  4. I believe we are all bashing our heads against a brick wall; a thick one too. These stubble jumpers and easteners in Ottawa don’t give a fig about our coast or our fish and the few westerners in the pig pen just kiss their masters butts. There is only 1 solution; kick the #*&^%$#s out of office in 2015! If anyone has a better idea, I’d like to hear it.

  5. are fish farms still mostly (or ALL) owned by Norwegians? … I know this used to be the case, meaning, we are being HOSED by outside interests with NO local accountability

  6. Nothing seems to be stopping these plutocrats, not protests, not letter writing, or mass emails.
    Its time to get pro-active, we need a day of action, everyone with a boat should block vancouver harbor for one day a month, or even one day a week until the provincial government does something to save wild salmon, or put farms on Land, nobody has done a thing about justice Cohens recomendations, that $26 million was our money, we need to demand that something be done, Now!

  7. It’s time to play dirty. We need to fight back and if that means attack adds like the politicians then lest do it!

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