In a year with plummeting returns of threatened chinook salmon in B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada's release today of the Cohen Response 2017 Status Update is welcome news, but without decisive government actions, the future of wild salmon remains uncertain.
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DFO announced today that, along with partners, the department acted on recommendations made in Justice Cohen's 2012 report from the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.
"We support the government's commitment to implement the Cohen Commission recommendations. However, DFO continues to fail to make important decisions to actually protect salmon when they need to, including reducing fishing for depleted chinook salmon," said David Suzuki Foundation senior science and policy analyst Jeffery Young.
In August, numbers for B.C.'s Fraser River chinook salmon were so dire that the Foundation called on DFO to close the fishery. "The fact that the fishery was not closed has made the situation even worse for the remaining 76 southern resident killer whales that rely on chinook as their primary food source," Young said. "Scientists point to starvation as the primary cause of recent whale deaths."
Young said wild salmon would be best served if this government takes decisive action for salmon recovery and makes the necessary decisions to restrict fishing or remove salmon farms that put wild salmon at risk from disease and pathogens. "If that doesn't happen, groups like ours will raise the alarm again next year as we prepare for salmon returns."
Restoring habitat protection to the Fisheries Act would be a step in the right direction for salmon conservation. However, impacts such as warming river temperatures related to climate change will put additional pressure on already stressed salmon populations that policy and budgets alone can't resolve.
"We've been waiting to see action on implementing the Wild Salmon Policy, one of the most effective policies we have to protect salmon," Young said. "The question remains whether all these pieces can come together in time to ensure the survival of one of Canada's most iconic species."
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Jeffery Young 250-208-8714