National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


Coverage of the Cohen Commission is expected to come to a boil today in Vancouver, British Columbia, when long-silenced scientist Kristi Miller will take the stand to answer questions about her research on viral disease in wild salmon.

The Canadian government put the Cohen Commission in motion to seek out an answer to the collapse of 2009's sockeye returns to British Columbia's Fraser River.

Miller is a molecular genetics researcher for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Her research on a possible link between a virus and the decline of the sockeye population was published in the journal Science in March. Since then, Miller has not spoken publicly about her work.

Recently released department emails indicate she was specifically barred from speaking. Yesterday, Miller attended the hearings accompanied by a security guard, only feeding speculation as to why she is being so carefully managed by the federal government.

So far, the hearings have failed to uncover a smoking gun for the decline of the sockeye, resulting in two burning questions: Was this commission a complete waste of money, and why gag your scientist when the point of the commission is to use science to find an answer?

One has to wonder if the results of the commission being inconclusive thus far was by design or an attempt to cover up some unsavory discovery. If nothing nefarious has taken place, then the DFO has only hamstrung themselves by limiting media access to the one scientist who apparently discovered anything measurable with all of those government grants.

Later in the week, the commission's focus will turn to salmon farming. I dare speculate the research will officially find no direct link between this lucrative business model and the decline of wild fish.

We've had our share of misuse of government funds on this side of the border. Nevertheless, I extend my fullest sympathies to the people of Canada, whose taxes have paid for this dog and pony show.

On the bright side, Fraser River returns of pinks are predicted to be as high as 17 million this summer, and the sockeye forecast is up to nearly 4 million. After last year's 30 million, that may seem like peanuts, but a season is better than a sit-out.

Inside the Industry

The anti-mining group Salmon Beyond Borders expressed disappointment and dismay last week at Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s announcement that he has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

This came just days after his administration asked members of his newly-formed Transboundary Rivers Citizens Advisory Work Group to provide comment on a Draft Statement of Cooperation associated with Transboundary mining.


NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.

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