Tag Archives: Mark Hume

Mark Hume on Cohen, DFO’s conflicting mandate to protect wild salmon while promoting aquaculture


Read Mark Hume’s take in the Globe and Mail on yesterday’s pivotal session at the Cohen Commission into disappearing Fraser sockeye.

“Brock Martland, associate commission counsel, set the stage for a
free-wheeling debate when he opened with ‘a big question,’ asking the
panel if they thought DFO could successfully both regulate and promote
the aquaculture industry, while protecting wild salmon stocks. ‘I
don’t believe that’s possible … those two [mandates] are in conflict,’
shot back Ms. Stewart, who believes the industry damages wild salmon by
spreading sea lice and disease. She said the regulation of fish
farms should be handed off to some other federal agency, such as
Agriculture Canada or Industry Canada, while DFO should be charged with
managing and protecting wild salmon.” (Sept 7, 2011)



No data means no answers, sockeye inquiry told


From the Globe and Mail – May 30, 2011

by Mark Hume

The lack of hard data on the ocean environment has become on
important issue to a federal commission investigating the collapse of
sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Repeatedly, scientists
testifying at the Cohen Commission have said they don’t really know what
happens to salmon once they have left fresh water and headed out into
the “black box” of the Pacific Ocean. They have complained about a
shortage of data, or no data at all, and have said there are limited
funds available for research.

One of the papers filed with the commission identifies a “hotspot” in
Queen Charlotte Sound, for example, where more than 10,000 sharks
gather on a main salmon migration route – but nobody knows why the
sharks are there, how long they are there, or what they are feeding on.

knowledge gap caused Tim Leadem, a lawyer representing a coalition of
conservation groups, to wonder out loud Thursday if the Cohen Commission
will ever get a definitive answer on what caused the Fraser River
sockeye population to collapse. The commission was appointed in 2009
after only one million salmon returned to spawn instead of the 10
million expected.

“What was the cause of the 2009 decline?” Mr.
Leadem asked a panel of scientists testifying about the impact of
predators on salmon. “I expect at the end of the day … [it will be an
inconclusive] death by 1,000 cuts.”

Mr. Leadem noted most of the
science teams that have presented papers to the Cohen Commission have
concluded by saying more research is needed.

“This is perplexing,”
he said. “If we are depending on science [for guidance], where are we
going to find the funding? And who’s going to be pulling the strings and
saying what science goes forward?”

Mr. Leadem said it appears
scientists “are in a world where you are scrambling for dollars” while
facing a growing list of questions.

“Yeah, we are scrambling for
research funding and it is going to be the nature of science that there
are always more questions that need answering,” said Andrew Trites, a
professor and director at the University of British Columbia Fisheries

Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen, the B.C. Supreme Court judge who
is heading the hearings, asked if there is an overall strategy for
addressing the many unanswered questions about the ocean environment.
“Within DFO and within the larger community of science … is there an
overarching body that does a macro analysis of all the science that’s
taking place? Who’s going to draw the agenda? Is this a scrambled
situation … or is there actually a game plane here?” he asked.

perception as an academic . . . in terms of fisheries management … I
don’t feel there is a game plan,” replied Dr. Trites, who appeared on a
panel with John Ford, head of cetacean research in the Pacific for
Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Peter Olesiuk, DFO’s head of
pinniped research.

Lara Tessaro, junior commission counsel, later
asked the witnesses to name the DFO managers who are directing
scientific research in the Pacific, a line of questioning that suggested
the issue may be revisited as the hearings continue.

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Sockeye haul linked aboriginal fishery to black market, DFO believes


From the Globe and Mail – May 18, 2011

by Mark Hume

When federal investigators in British Columbia found 345,000 sockeye
stored in 110 industrial freezers, they thought they were onto a major
black market operation for salmon caught in aboriginal food fisheries.

Project Ice Storm, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans intelligence
operation that found the salmon in 2005, ran out of funding and wasn’t
able to track the fish from the cold storage plants to their final
destination, the Cohen Commission heard on Tuesday.

It has long been suspected in B.C. that the aboriginal fishery is a
cover for operations, with possible organized crime links, that trade in
salmon the way others trade in drugs. Native leaders have rejected such
allegations, saying their communities need all the fish they catch
because salmon are a cultural staple in everything from births to
funeral feasts.

DFO documents filed with the commission, which is
investigating the collapse of sockeye salmon populations in the Fraser
River, show enforcement officials felt the fish, caught under “food,
social and ceremonial” licences, were destined to go into the commercial

“The FSC First Nations fishery on the Lower Fraser River
is largely out of control and should be considered in all contexts, a
commercial fishery,” states a DFO intelligence assessment of Project Ice

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans are unable to
effectively control the illegal sales of FSC salmon,” it states. “A
major change is needed in fisheries laws to effectively deal with the
commercial processing and storage of FSC fish.”

Another document,
recording a meeting of DFO enforcement officers in April, 2010, states
that “97 per cent of FSC harvest in LFR [Lower Fraser River] is thought
to be sold.”

Scott Coultish, regional chief of DFO’s Intelligence
and Investigation Services, said in testimony the estimate was based on
the personal comments of field officers, not from any research. But he
felt it was accurate.

Each year, bands are allocated a catch of
salmon to cover their food, social and ceremonial needs. Some years,
when there is a surplus of fish, they are also allowed “economic
opportunity” catches, which can be sold. In 2005, only 5,500 sockeye
were caught in the native EO fishery on the Fraser.

Mr. Coultish
said the 345,000 sockeye in cold storage plants in the Lower Mainland
and on Vancouver Island were registered to individuals and companies.
The fish, which were legally stored, were flash frozen, or smoked and in
vacuum packaging.

“Most or all of this was consistent with what
you would see for commercial fish,” he said. “This product was simply
not for food, societal and ceremonial use.”

Randy Nelson, DFO’s
director of conservation and protection on the Pacific coast, told the
commission his department didn’t have the resources to follow up on the
find, and he doubted they would in the future because he has been told
significant cutbacks are coming.

In an interview outside the
hearings, Ernie Crey, a fisheries adviser for the Sto:lo Nation, which
fishes on the Lower Fraser, rejected the implications of the testimony
of the two DFO officials.

He said 950,000 FSC sockeye were caught
by native communities in the Fraser in 2005, and because the season was
short and intense, a large number of fish arrived quickly and went into
commercial freezers.

“About one third of our fish were in cold storage. This would not be unusual,” he said.

Mr. Crey said salmon are served at almost every ceremony.

a member of my community passes away, you’d get 250 to 1,000 people
attending the funeral. Fish would be served. It’s the same at weddings,
birthdays. … And that’s a lot of fish,” he said.

About 40,000
aboriginal people live in Metro Vancouver and about 15,000 are in the
Fraser Valley. It’s not clear how many of them get FSC salmon.

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Mark Hume: Cohen called on to release information on salmon virus


From the Globe & Mail – May 3, 2011

by Mark Hume

A federal public inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the
Fraser River has been accused of suppressing information that an
infectious virus has been detected in British Columbia waters.

concern is raised in letters to the Cohen Commission of Inquiry by
Gregory McDade, a lawyer representing salmon researcher and anti-fish
farm activist Alexandra Morton.

Officially the commission is not engaged with the issue, but the
letters, obtained by The Globe and Mail, show that Ms. Morton’s
knowledge of the disease and a debate over the public’s right to know
about it has developed into a contentious issue behind the scenes.

commission suspended its hearings for the day on Tuesday for what
spokesperson Carla Shore described as a routine all-counsel meeting to
discuss legal housekeeping matters.

But sources say the issue up
for discussion is the one raised by Mr. McDade’s letters, in which he
argues Ms. Morton should be released from the commission’s undertaking
of confidentiality.

The undertaking prevents participants in the
hearings from making public any information they have obtained through
disclosure. And with 390,000 documents and more than 188,000 e-mails
disclosed so far, that means there is a mountain of material to keep

Mr. McDade wrote that in combing through that vast volume
of material, Ms. Morton came across “indications” a disease known as
infectious salmon anemia virus, or ISA, may have been detected in fish
samples tested by provincial government labs.

The suggestion is
the symptoms of the disease were detected, but not the disease itself,
which has never been reported on the West Coast. ISA can be lethal to
Atlantic salmon, but Pacific salmon have proved immune to it in tests.
The concern is that if the disease were present, it could change and
begin to kill Pacific stocks.

“Canada and Canadians are obliged to
report diseases of aquatic animals as a member of the World
Organization for Animal Health,” Mr. McDade wrote.

“There are
approximately 35 indications of the existence of ISA identified in these
records to date,” he wrote. “Of great biological concern is that some
of these diagnoses are in Pacific salmon, suggesting potential spread of
a novel and virulent virus into native populations may be underway into
the North Pacific.”

He asked that Ms. Morton be released from her
undertaking so she can report her ISA concerns to the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency.

“There is a very substantial public interest in
ensuring full reporting of ISA indications. An ISA epidemic could prove
devastating to wild salmon stocks. In our submission the public
interest in proper reporting must outweigh the interest in
confidentiality,” Mr. McDade wrote.

The request was refused by commission lawyers – but neither the ruling nor Mr. McDade’s application were released.

a second letter Mr. McDade objected to the secrecy around the
application and the ruling, saying it “is reminiscent of the criticisms
of the Star Chamber. It is not appropriate to a public inquiry.”

McDade wrote that British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen,
who is heading the inquiry, should hear submissions on the matter “in an
open public setting.”

He concludes by stating that the second
letter, which was distributed to the more than 20 lawyers representing
participants at the hearings, should not be covered by the undertaking
because it does not contain any confidential documents.

Mr. McDade did not return calls on Tuesday. Ms. Morton said because of the undertaking she cannot discuss her concerns.

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Cohen Sockeye Inquiry: Unguarded note conveys Fisheries’ manager’s frustrations


From The Globe & Mail – April 5, 2011

by Mark Hume

An unguarded note a Department of Fisheries and Oceans manager wrote
to himself has given a judicial inquiry a glimpse into the frustrations
and fears felt by frontline staff fighting to save salmon habitat in
British Columbia.

The brief, one-page document written by Jason
Hwang, a manager for DFO’s Habitat and Enhancement Branch in the
Kamloops area, was entered as evidence at the Cohen commission on
Tuesday by Judah Harrison, a lawyer representing a coalition of
conservation groups.

Mr. Harrison, who obtained the document through disclosure, described
it as “a sort of unguarded critique” of DFO’s struggles to protect

“Well, I definitely agree it’s unguarded,” said Mr.
Hwang, who was one of three DFO witnesses testifying on habitat issues.
“I believe I wrote that for myself for some upcoming planning meeting. .
. .trying to reflect on some key things we were grappling with.”

Mr. Hwang said the note is a few years old, but in response to questions from Mr. Harrison, he agreed things haven’t changed.

amount of development in Thompson, Okanagan, Nicola, Shuswap. We can’t
keep up. Referral backlog is up to 4 months,” wrote Mr. Hwang, whose
department is responsible for ensuring salmon habitat is not degraded by
logging, mining, agriculture, urban growth and other activities. “We
are not able to pursue smaller occurrences that in the past we have
pursued and prosecuted.”

Earlier in the week, the commission heard
that DFO is not meeting its key policy goal of ensuring that
developments do not cause a net loss of fish habitat. The commission,
which is examining the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River,
also heard DFO’s effectiveness was hampered by a new habitat management
policy (known as the Environmental Process Modernization Plan, or EPMP),
which staff in B.C. resisted because it was “lowering the bar” on
environmental protection.

“EPMP and staff reductions have reduced
our ability to engage with proponents. . .we don’t have a handle on what
is actually going on,” Mr. Hwang stated in his note.

“We have no viable referral system. This is killing us,” he stated.

are without question not attaining no net loss. . .Our staff are very
dis-illusioned [sic] that the department is not doing more to address

“The relationship between province and DFO is in a state of
disfunction [sic]. We don’t coordinate on referrals in any consistent
way, and there is no guidance or leadership from Vancouver-Victoria on

Mr. Hwang also wrote DFO was not keeping up with the
increased logging authorized by the province in response to the mountain
pine-beetle epidemic, which has swept through much of the B.C.
Interior, killing huge stands of timber.

“We are totally
disengaged from operational forestry. Rates of cut have increased
massively in response to MPB. We don’t have a handle on what is going
on, and are not providing any meaningful guidance on what we would like
to see for fish,” wrote Mr. Hwang.

The frank assessment of DFO’s
failings contrasted with the more cautious evaluations given in direct
testimony by Mr. Hwang, and his co-witnesses, Patrice LeBlanc, director
of habitat policies for DFO in Ottawa, and Rebecca Reid, a regional
director in the Pacific.

They portrayed DFO as doing a good job despite the challenges of budget restrictions and staffing cuts.

Craig Orr, who was observing proceedings as executive director of the
Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said he was dismayed by the testimony.

evidence supports the widely held belief that government is more
concerned with streamlining harmful industrial development and
bolstering flagging public confidence than in protecting critical salmon
habitat,” he said.

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Elevated B.C. radiation levels considered no threat to health


From the Globe & Mail – March 29, 2011

by Mark Hume

Increased levels of radioactive iodine have been detected in seaweed
and rainwater samples in British Columbia and a scientist from Simon
Fraser University says the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan is
clearly the source.

Krzysztof (Kris) Starosta, an associate
professor in the department of chemistry at SFU, said levels of the
radioisotope iodine-131 have risen, but are not a health concern.

Perry Kendall, British Columbia’s provincial health officer,
reinforced that view, saying the levels detected by SFU are “minuscule …
very, very tiny,” and are nothing to worry about.

He said the levels are “about one-millionth” the dose that would be of concern.

“We’re looking at very low levels of radiation here,” Dr. Kendall said.

Starosta agreed the levels are low, but he said they did climb over
several days of testing as Japanese nuclear workers struggled to bring
the damaged reactor under control.

“As of now, the levels we’re
seeing are not harmful to humans,” Dr. Starosta said. “We have not
reached levels of elevated risk.”

He said the radiation is being
carried across the Pacific to North America by the jet stream, strong
wind currents that blow west to east high in the atmosphere. While most
of the radioactivity falls out over the ocean, some of it has reached
the West Coast where it is being deposited with rain. It is mixing with
seawater and accumulating in seaweed.

The rainwater samples
containing iodine-131 were taken at SFU’s campus on Burnaby Mountain and
in downtown Vancouver. Seaweed samples were collected in North
Vancouver near the Seabus terminal.

Samples taken March 16 and
March 18 did not show the signature for iodine-131, but it did show up
in tests on March, 19, 20 and 25.

The radioactive substance is
measured in “decays of iodine-131 per second per litre of rainwater,”
which is expressed as becquerels or Bq/l.

On March 18, the level
was zero, but on March 19 it was 9 Bq/l and on March 20 it was 12 Bq/l.
On March 25 the level was 11 Bq/l.

In Japan, a health warning was
issued recently when iodine-131 levels reached 210 Bq/l in drinking
water. The Japanese standard for iodine-131 in drinking water is 100
Bq/l if the water is to be consumed by an infant, and 300 Bq/l if the
water is to be consumed by an adult.

“The only possible source of
iodine-131 in the atmosphere is a release from a nuclear fission,” Dr.
Starosta said. “Iodine-131 has a half-life of eight days, thus we
conclude the only possible release which could happen is from the
Fukushima incident.”

He said iodine-131 will probably continue to
show up in B.C. for three to four weeks after the Fukushima nuclear
reactor stops releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere.

has been detected in rainwater at several locations in the United
States in the past few days, but far below levels that would raise
health concerns.

Dr. Kendall said health authorities will continue
to monitor the situation, but it appears the fight to control the
damaged reactor in Japan is being won, and even a worst-case scenario
wouldn’t threaten Canada.

“My sense is that it’s coming under
control. The amounts of radiation that were being emitted last week are
probably not going to be measured again, unless something absolutely
disastrous happens,” he said. “Health Canada and the [Radiation]
Protection Branch … have modelled with the U.S. other scenarios. They
modelled one where a couple of the nuclear reactor cores melted down and
three of the spent fuel-rod containments melted down – and even then we
are at such a distance away, and there is such a volumetric dispersion,
that we’re not going to see levels of harm.”

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Sockeye Virus Cover-up: DFO’s stifling of research a case of déjà vu


From the Globe & Mail – March 27, 2011

by Mark Hume

When a federal commission investigating the collapse of Fraser River
sockeye stocks heard recently that a Fisheries and Oceans scientist who
has done groundbreaking research was being silenced, it gave Jeffrey
Hutchings a bad case of déjà vu.

“Your recent articles on DFO’s
muzzling of Dr. Kristi Miller remind me of similar attempts by DFO to
stifle the imparting of science from government scientists to other
scientists and to the Canadian public,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Prof. Hutchings, a widely respected fisheries scientist, holds the
Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation & Biodiversity at
Dalhousie University, in Halifax. In 1997, he, Carl Walters from the
Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia and Richard
Haedrich, Department of Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland,
set off a media firestorm with a paper that ripped DFO for suppressing
controversial science.

Writing in the Canadian Journal of
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, they outlined two cases – the collapse
of Atlantic cod stocks and the diversion of the Nechako River, in B.C. –
in which they maintained research was stifled because it didn’t conform
to political agendas.

They argued that, on the East Coast, DFO
silenced scientists who warned Atlantic cod stocks had been devastated
not by seal predation, but from overfishing. And, in the West, they
stated that DFO rejected research that showed an Alcan plan to divert
the Nechako River would damage Chinook stocks.

In both cases, they
wrote, hard-working scientists had their findings suppressed by DFO
managers who didn’t want to see research that clashed with political

“We contend that political and bureaucratic interference in
government fisheries science compromises the DFO’s efforts to sustain
fish stocks,” Mr. Hutchings and his colleagues wrote.

When the
article came out, it created headlines, sparking a national debate on
the role of science within government. DFO officials denied stifling any
researchers. But the article, quoting internal DFO memos, showed
scientists had been “explicitly ordered … not to discuss ‘politically
sensitive’ matters … with the public, irrespective of the scientific

Earlier this month, the Cohen Commission of Inquiry Into
the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, saw an e-mail by Dr.
Miller in which she complained about being kept away from a workshop
because her DFO masters “fear that we will not be able to control the
way the disease issue could be construed in the press.”

Miller, who suspects a virus is killing millions of sockeye salmon in
the river, had a paper published in the prestigious journal Science
earlier this year. But she has not been allowed to talk to the press
about it.

“By preventing Dr. Miller from speaking to the media and
from participating in non-DFO controlled meetings/workshops, DFO is
inhibiting science,” Mr. Hutchings said in his e-mail. “This action, so
evidently lacking in openness and transparency, is regrettably
consistent with the objective of controlling the information that public
servants are permitted to disseminate to the public.”

Miller’s situation also inspired Alan Sinclair, a retired DFO scientist,
to write: “Your recent article reporting that DFO put a gag order on
Dr. Kristi Miller’s research on disease in sockeye salmon is very
disturbing. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is all too common in DFO
and other Federal Ministries with large science components. I encourage
you to follow up on this and make Canadians more aware of what’s going

But following up while Dr. Miller is locked away from the
press won’t be easy. She isn’t due to testify before the Cohen
Commission for several months. Until then, Canadians can only wonder
what she discovered – and why she was silenced.

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Fish farm sues activist Don Staniford for defamation


From the Globe & Mail – March 24, 2011

by Mark Hume

A heated battle between an anti-fish farm group and the aquaculture
industry is headed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia over attack
ads that equate farmed salmon with cancer-causing tobacco.

Canada, the second-largest aquaculture company on the West Coast, is
seeking damages for “false and defamatory postings” and seeks to have
the offending material removed from the websites, Facebook accounts and
Twitter feeds of Don Staniford and his organization, the Global Alliance
Against Industrial Aquaculture.

Mainstream Canada announced the lawsuit in a press release on
Thursday, and Mr. Staniford responded by releasing a copy of a letter he
sent to Mainstream’s parent company in Norway, Cermaq ASA, in which he
says he welcomes the chance to debate the issue in court.

takes Cermaq’s complaint extremely seriously and very much welcomes the
opportunity to expand upon why we honestly and firmly believe that
‘Salmon Farming Kills,’” states the letter, repeating one of the
anti-fish farm slogans to which Mainstream objects.

Laurie Jensen,
Mainstream Canada’s communications and corporate sustainability
manager, said the company is not concerned the lawsuit might give Mr.
Staniford and his campaign more publicity.

“It’s not about the
media,” she said. “It’s about the fact that these guys have crossed the
line. The comments there are so insane and libellous that we just can’t
not do anything any more.”

Ms. Jensen said the anti-fish farm
campaign has drawn complaints from the company’s employees, customers,
suppliers and from some first nations, which are partners in aquaculture

“They are saying somebody’s got to do something about
this – and if not us, then who?” she said. “So that’s what it’s about.
We can’t let this continue. Enough’s enough.”

Mr. Staniford said the lawsuit is an attempt by the company to silence its harshest critic.

is an example of the Norwegian government trying to shut down free
speech,” he said, noting that the GAAIA website was taken offline after
the Internet service provider was advised of the lawsuit by the company.

Staniford said he hopes to have a new site up soon, and that he will
use it to continue his battle against fish farms and to raise legal
defence funds.

Mr. Staniford, who is based in B.C., said he formed
GAAIA recently to go after fish farms internationally, and that the
organization “has supporters globally.”

Mainstream, which produces
25,000 tonnes of farmed fish annually in B.C., states in its claim that
Mr. Staniford and GAAIA defamed the company numerous times in a
campaign launched in January that ran in three segments, under the
titles “Salmon Farming Kills,” “Silent Spring of the Sea” and “Smoke on
the Water, Cancer on the Coast.”

The notice of claim lists more
than 30 slogans the company finds defamatory and says the anti-fish farm
campaign “employs graphic imagery that links the defamatory words and
Mainstream to tobacco manufacturers and cigarettes.”

It states
that tobacco products are known to be harmful to human health and
alleges the campaign clearly implies that Mainstream’s products “kill
people … make people sick … are unsafe for human consumption … [and
that] Mainstream is knowingly marketing a carcinogenic product that
causes illness, death and harm.”

The GAAIA campaign is aimed at
“Norwegian-owned” fish farms in general, but the claim notes that the
Norwegian government owns 43.5 per cent of Cermaq ASA, so the link to
Mainstream is obvious.

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Cohen Commission: Study Rules Out Usual Freshwater Habitat Suspects in Sockeye Decline


From the Globe & Mail – March 11, 2011

by Mark Hume

A federal judicial inquiry that is trying to find out why sockeye
salmon in the Fraser River are in decline has been told that whatever is
killing them, it is not one of the usual suspects.

While mining,
logging, hydro projects and other industrial developments in the
watershed are degrading habitat quality, none of them can be blamed for
the precipitous drop in sockeye stocks, states a science report done for
the Cohen Commission of Inquiry Into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon.

Marc Nelitz, lead author of a study that looked at the impact of a
variety of human activities, said while the number of adult sockeye has
dropped dramatically over two decades, the survival of juvenile salmon
has remained stable.

“The collection of all that evidence leads us
to conclude it’s unlikely the freshwater environment is playing a
role,” Mr. Nelitz said Thursday, testifying to the Cohen commission.

report did not reach a definitive conclusion, but Mr. Nelitz said “the
weight of evidence” clearly indicates whatever is killing the fish is
doing so outside the Fraser environment.

“Based on the evidence it
seems most likely that changes in the physical and biological
conditions in the Strait of Georgia have led to an increase in mortality
during marine life stages,” the report states. “Specific mortality
agents include lack of food, freshwater and marine pathogens, harmful
algal blooms and other factors.”

The report did say it is possible
“a non-lethal stressor in the freshwater environment is causing
mortality during a later life stage,” but if so, it wasn’t identified.

Nelitz, a systems ecologist with the environmental consulting firm ESSA
Technologies, said the research team looked at the impact of forest
harvesting activities, the effect of a massive pine beetle infestation
that has altered hydrology by killing off vast tracts of forest, the
storage of log booms in the estuary, large- and small-scale hydro
projects, urbanization, agricultural development and water use.

has long been known those activities degrade fish habitat to varying
degrees – but the relatively steady survival rate of young salmon in the
Fraser eliminates them all as suspects in the mystery the Cohen
commission is trying to unravel.

Bruce Cohen, a British Columbia
Supreme Court justice, was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper
after only about one million sockeye returned to the Fraser in 2009,
when more than 10 million fish had been expected. That marked the low
point in 20 years of decline, although there was a dramatic and
unexpected rebound last year, when more than 28 million sockeye
returned, providing the biggest run since 1913.

The Cohen
commission, which has ordered a dozen scientific reports and is holding
evidentiary hearings in Vancouver, is trying to figure out why sockeye
stocks are so unstable, and why they have been declining for so long.

Nelitz said the study did not look at the cumulative impact of
activities along the Fraser, nor did it examine saltwater habitat. Those
issues are under separate study.

The report said more information
is needed on the early life stages of salmon, and it called for better
estimates of juvenile abundance, for more information on the survival
rates of young salmon over winter, and for studies on the period when
smolts migrate down the Fraser and go out to sea.

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