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DFO lands in Richmond to announce action plan on fish

But Minister stops short on all Cohen recommendations as 2016 sockeye run could dip below one million
Photos: 2014 sockeye salmon in Steveston_1

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced Tuesday it is taking “further action” on the 75 recommendations of the 2012 Cohen Commission, which sought to address declining Fraser River sockeye salmon runs.

Twenty-nine new employees will be hired for the Pacific Region to help implement many of the recommendations, according to Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Hon. Dominic LeBlanc said

However, there was no commitment that all of the recommendations will be fully implemented yet.

“For some recommendations, DFO supports implementation but additional funding or further work (e.g. consultations) would be required to implement,” noted an online update on the status of the Cohen Commission.

This week, critics have taken aim at DFO’s continued mandate of “economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries,” and “sustainable aquatic ecosystems,” including fish farms.

Commission Recommendation 3 calls for the government to “remove from the (DFO) mandate “the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.”

Environmentalists, such as Alexandra Morton and members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, claim open ocean fish farms are prone to dangerous diseases, thus harming wild stocks. Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, insists farming has no impact on wild stocks.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation said, via an online statement, that it “welcomes the update provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and is very encouraged to hear directly from the minister that full implementation of the Cohen Commission recommendations is a top priority for this new government.”


Grim estimates from Commission

Steveston’s gillnetters have been marooned at their docks this season and it’s expected to stay that way, after the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) released detailed estimates of this year’s sockeye salmon run, which could mark an all-time low.

“The migration of sockeye through both marine and Fraser River assessment areas has been tracking substantially lower than expected for the time of year . . . Sockeye catches in both areas have been at levels less than observed on past cycle years at this time of year,” stated PSC, last Friday.

This week PSC updated its projections, which are worse than last week’s.

The adopted in-season total sockeye run now stands at 968,000 fish, down from the previous estimate of 1.3 million fish. PSC initially expected 2.3 million fish. So far, only 566,900 have returned. First Nations have caught 66,400, with commercial fishers tied at the docks. In 2012, the Fraser saw 2.3 million sockeye return to the river (fish that parented this year’s run).

Sockeye runs occur every four years. The river is now left with just one significant run., In 2014 about 20 million returned from the ocean. Their offspring are expected in 2018.