Leaders agree Fraser River sockeye need more protection

First Nations people in the Cariboo Chilcotin are among those calling for action to rebuild Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks.

Hon. Bruce Cohen’s 1,100 page reported titled The Uncertain Future of Fraser River Sockeye www.cohencommission.ca is an interesting report with very strong recommendations, said  Dr. Craig Orr, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

“We need to see how it is going to be implemented and what action government takes,” Orr told the Tribune.

In the report Cohen discusses the causes for the decades-long decline in productivity of Fraser River sockeye salmon and makes 75 recommendations to improve the future sustainability of the fishery.

While he acknowledged that some hoped the report would find a “smoking gun” or single cause that explained the two-decade decline in productivity, Cohen said finding that “a single event or stressor is responsible is improbable.”

“We haven’t gone through the report in detail,” Orr said Oct. 31, the day the report was released, but noted his preliminary look at the report showed it uncovered potential causes, including that Fraser Sockeye are experiencing thermal stress related to climate change. “Cohen said he didn’t know exactly what to do about that.”

Orr pointed out that Cohen was also very clear that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is suffering from a conflicted mandate — promoting salmon farms and regulating them — and recommended DFO no longer be responsible for promoting salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.

Cohen suggested that promoting salmon farms be mandated out of DFO and given to another branch of government, and that DFO should regulate salmon farming and protect wild fish.

“A point that made us cheer as conservationists was his emphasis that DFO should fully implement and fund Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy and its Habitat Protection Policy,” Orr said. “Both policies are languishing at this time, and Cohen suggested there be a dedicated staff person at the senior level in DFO to ensure the Wild Salmon Policy is fully implemented. He was also quite critical of the recent omnibus bill that made changes in the fisheries act and made it more difficult to protect salmon habitat.”

The Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) is a member of the First Nations Coalition and was granted standing at the inquiry.

Gord Sterrit, NSTC fisheries manager, said as a participant he advocated the importance of First Nations involvement in fisheries management activities, such as stock assessment by NSTC within its traditional territory, which includes the Quesnel Lake and Horsefly watersheds.

“Justice Cohen made some valuable recommendations that if adhered to by the federal government could be instrumental in protecting the wild salmon that are important to this province.  Overall the process was good for Fraser Sockeye.  The report makes recommendations for protection and improvement of habitat,” Sterrit said.

Applauding Cohen’s recommendation that the Wild Salmon and Habitat policies be implemented, Sterrit said in the Cariboo damage has occurred from un-monitored agriculture and mining activities that could be addressed by the implementation of both policies.

“The NSTC fisheries department has been requesting that DFO fully honour the WSP policy since it was introduced in 2005 and hopefully DFO will finally be forced to do so,” he said.

Agreeing with the recommendation that there be increased monitoring and enforcement of activities that affect fish and fish habitat, Sterrit alleged there are many activities that DFO does not currently enforce due to lack of capacity and resources.

“Within the Cariboo Region there are many situations where deleterious substances are being introduced to fish-bearing waters.

The discharge of tailings pond water is one example.”

Pleased that Cohen criticized the changes that the federal government made by passing Bill C-38, Sterrit said the NSTC fisheries department as well as many others have huge concerns with the changes and the effects that they will have on salmon.

“In essence the federal government alleviated protection of fisheries habitat through the implementation of this bill and acted without fully realizing the implications to wild salmon.”

Numerous processes were suspended by the federal government, including treaty negotiations for fish with First Nations, as well as international processes (Pacific Salmon Commission – Fraser Sockeye Annex renewal) with the United States, Sterrit said.

Without waiting for the results of the Cohen Inquiry, the government also pushed through changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Sterrit said.

“While the NSTC fisheries department is excited for the most part with the recommendations of Justice Cohen, the actions of the Federal Government in the past year have been less than encouraging.”

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government chair, issued a press release Nov. 5 stating the Tsilhqot’in are pleased the report has been issued, yet remain concerned the Cohen Commission did not have the resources to visit any of the Tsilhqot’in communities or had a mandate to consult directly with the TNG as a First Nation.

He argued that First Nations traditional knowledge about the salmon and its habitat in headwaters would have helped, and suggested that knowledge be used to guide the federal government’s response of the report.

“There has to be a balance of western science and First Nations knowledge while trying to determine what happened, how to develop a recovery strategy together, and this consultation cannot be after the fact,” Alphonse said and called on the government of Canada to take immediate action to respond to the Cohen Report and to meaningfully involve the Tsilhqot’in and all other First Nations in developing a response.

“With careful Tsilhqot’in management, we have preserved the most resilient sockeye run in B.C. – the Chilko run. We have done this through selective fishing and preservation of our pristine headwaters at Chilko and Taseko Lakes,” Alphonse said.

Without waiting for the results of the Cohen Inquiry, the government also pushed through changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Sterrit said.

“While the NSTC fisheries department is excited for the most part with the recommendations of Justice Cohen, the actions of the Federal Government in the past year have been less than encouraging.”

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government chair, issued a press release Nov. 5 stating the Tsilhqot’in are pleased the report has been issued, yet remain concerned the Cohen Commission did not have the resources to visit any of the Tsilhqot’in communities or had a mandate to consult directly with the TNG as a First Nation. He argued that First Nations traditional knowledge about the salmon and its habitat in headwaters would have helped, and suggested that knowledge be used to guide the federal government’s response to the report.

“There has to be a balance of western science and First Nations knowledge while trying to determine what happened, how to develop a recovery strategy together, and this consultation cannot be after the fact,” Alphonse said and called on the government of Canada to take immediate action to respond to the Cohen Report and to meaningfully involve the Tsilhqot’in and all other First Nations in developing a response.

“With careful Tsilhqot’in management, we have preserved the most resilient sockeye run in B.C. – the Chilko run. We have done this through selective fishing and preservation of our pristine headwaters at Chilko and Taseko Lakes,” Alphonse said.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The truck the two suspects were arrested in following a high-speed chase with the RCMP being searched by investigators. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: RCMP arrest suspects south of Williams Lake after chase through 100 Mile

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

(Tribune file photo)
Roses to Good Samaritans who helped me during theft

It restores one’s faith in human nature

Wyatt McCullough didn’t make it look easy, but he managed to succeed in the steer wrestling event at the High School Rodeo, held during in 2020 at Alex Fraser Park. This was the first rodeo event held in Quesnel in 2020 after everything else was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Saddle up: Quesnel Rodeo Club planning three 2021 events

Club president Ray Jasper said the rodeos could include rough stock events

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

Most Read