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Missing the boat

In 2009, the lowest ever returns of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River were recorded.

In 2009, the lowest ever returns of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River were recorded. The federal government convened the Cohen Commission in November that year to investigate the reason(s) for the "missing" fish and to recommend ways to improve salmon management.

Justice Bruce Cohen delivered his 1,200-page report with 75 recommendations on Oct. 29, 2012. One year later, the government's response remains as mysterious as the vanishing sockeye.

Four months after Justice Cohen's $26-million report was made public, 24 concerned scientists from both Canada and the United States met at Simon Fraser University as a think tank to chart a recommended course of action given there was concern that the federal government was not responding to the report.

The think tank noted that Bill C-38's "sweeping changes" to Canada's Fisheries and Environmental Assessment Acts had weakened fish habitat protection, but that the need to monitor and protect habitat had not. The think tank concluded the investment in the Cohen report "demands action."

Local streamkeepers made much the same point in a letter to this paper on Sept. 15. To his credit, MP John Weston brought Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to West Vancouver to meet with the letter writers. While both politicians have been accessible, there is still no public response from the Conservative government on an overdue action plan.

That woeful one-year anniversary of nothing to celebrate will not pass unremarked: former fisheries minister John Fraser and other inquiry participants plan to make their feelings public today. Will the government will respond?

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