protesters rally outside DFO offices in Vancouver

By Quinn Bender, Prince Rupert Northern View, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Anti-salmon farm protesters rallied outside the offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24 in a show of solidarity for a coalition of First Nations and industry groups who the day prior demanded an end to salmon farming in the Discovery Islands

Recommendations 18-20, under Aquaculture – Cohen Response status update, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Recommendation 19

Organized by Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance (WSDA) , a protest of about 30 people carrying signs, chanting, drumming and staging a die-in called out for DFO to pull the trigger on Recommendation 19 of the 2012 Cohen Commission Inquiry, which urges government to prohibit fish farming in the archipelago by Sept. 30 if the operations are proven to pose more than a minimal risk to the health of wild Fraser River sockeye salmon. 

Did not exceed minimum risk

Shawn Hall, spokesperson for the B.C.’s salmon farming industry told Black Press Media, however, that it has invested heavily in delousing treatment technology as part of an integrated pest management system, and issues regular public reports on lice counts. Earlier this week, Hall said the evidence shows salmon farms have not exceeded minimal risk, and that a lot of science has gone into salmon farming since the release of the Cohen report. 

“The bulk of it [found] that responsible salmon farming does not harm wild salmon populations. We’re confident that bar has been met.” 

Decline of Fraser River sockeye

The $37-million Cohen Commission inquiry was launched in response to the sharp decline of Fraser River sockeye in 2009. The final report, released in 2012, listed 75 recommendations for changes in government policies and practices aimed at helping sockeye runs recover. 

“There is an unprecedented, historic number of people coming together to tell the government to honour the Cohen Commission recommendation … we are here in solidarity to tell DFO to get the farms out — they have five days,” Eddie Gardner, president of WSDA said. 

This year, sockeye returns to the Fraser River are expected to fall below 300,000, the lowest on record. The drop is blamed on a number of factors, including climate change, over-fishing, loss of habitat and increased predation, but both DFO and the salmon farm industry dispute claims salmon farms are contributing to the ongoing decline. 

Prior to Thursday’s protest, on Sept. 25 a coalition of First Nations leaders, wilderness tourism operators, environmental NGOs, and commercial and sport fishing organizations gathered in North Vancouver to demand the federal government fulfill the conditional recommendation of the Cohen Commission, and follow through on its mandate to abolish all open-pen farms from B.C. waters by 2025.

Top photo credit: A demonstrator among 30 others wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. – Quinn Bender photo

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