Can. budget favors aquaculture over wild salmon

Money in this year’s federal budget for aquaculture has critics wondering when Ottawa plans to speak up for wild salmon on the west coast.

The government gave the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) $57.5 million over five years “to enhance regulatory certainty” in the aquaculture industry, but it has yet to respond to the final report of the $26-million Cohen Commission, which was set up to look into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.

“How do you respond to the recommendations of Mr. Justice [Bruce] Cohen, specifically that there be a moratorium on new aquaculture development near the Discovery Islands [B.C.],” asked Green Party Leader Elizabeth May outside the House of Commons after Tuesday’s question period. She added that there is a great deal of concern in B.C. that farmed salmon are harming the survival of wild stocks.

The Cohen Commission was set up in 2009 to look into the dramatic and unexpected decline of that year’s Fraser River sockeye salmon run. DFO expected 11 million fish to return in 2009, but fewer than 1.5 million did. Cohen’s report was released in October of last year and made 75 recommendations to ensure the future well-being of sockeye salmon. Chief among them was a call for a moratorium on all new salmon farm operations in the Discovery Islands between Vancouver Island and B.C.’s mainland.

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