British Columbia’s wild salmon are still waiting.
One year ago today, the highly anticipated final report of the Cohen Commission was released. The commission, which cost $26.4 million and took more than two years, was struck to investigate the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks. Its findings were expected to provide better understanding of the issues that affect migrating salmon and provide recommendations on how to effectively manage them.
The report, entitled The Uncertain Future of Fraser River Sockeye, painted a grim picture for B.C.’s wild salmon and called on the federal government to fund and publish a “wild salmon policy implementation plan.”
Since then, no plan has been published, and no other action has been taken to protect and conserve wild salmon on Canada’s Pacific coast. At best, this is a horrendous waste of taxpayer dollars, and at worst, it’s a total abandonment of B.C.’s most iconic species — and the ecosystems, cultures and economies that depend on it.
The federal government’s inaction on Cohen was preceded by the passing of Budget Bill C-38, which gutted fish-habitat protection laws. The bill eliminated one-third of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s habitat staff in B.C. It dropped the law that required major projects to undergo both a federal and provincial environmental assessment, paving the way for pipelines, coal mines and other industrial projects that jeopardize habitats for salmon and other species.
Bill C-38 is one of the biggest regressions in environmental protection in Canadian history.
All this has come at a time when Pacific salmon stocks are not nearly as resilient as they have been in the past. With most runs depleted and some gone altogether, salmon are poorly suited to withstand the institutionalized neglect they now face from federal lawmakers.