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October 29, 2013

Salmon report's 75 recommendations gathering dust

VANCOUVER - The first anniversary of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River falls on October 31, 2013. Despite spending $26 million over three years to determine the causes for the decline, the federal government has done almost nothing to follow through with the 75 recommendations put forward by the commission.

"After weighing evidence from 2,145 exhibits, 892 public submissions and 180 witnesses, Justice Bruce Cohen and his team provided Canadians with 75 independent recommendations to help us recover salmon populations," says Jay Ritchlin, David Suzuki Foundation Western Canada Director General. "A year has passed, yet I've heard no meaningful response from the Prime Minister's Office, who called for the inquiry in the first place."

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea's assurances that DFO is taking actions "consistent with the recommendations" don't match the urgency recommended by the Cohen Commission. Instead of directing funds towards implementing the recommendations of the commission, the most recent federal budget cut $100 million from fisheries programs. Ritchlin notes, "Justice Cohen gave the federal government a straightforward, apolitical and thoroughly researched direction to help rebuild salmon stocks. They know what they need to do. They're just not making it a priority."

The federal judicial inquiry was announced in reaction to the record decline of sockeye populations returning to the Fraser River in 2009. The offspring of those Fraser sockeye have returned in low numbers this fall, while sockeye runs on the Skeena River returned at historic lows this year, resulting in fisheries closures.

Ritchlin adds, "During the inquiry, British Columbians were clear that they don't want to risk the future of wild salmon. It's a fundamental part of our history, and we want it to be a fundamental part of our future, too."

For more information on the Cohen Commission media release and report: http://www.cohencommission.ca/en/

Contact: Jay Ritchlin
(604) 961-6840

October 29, 2013