Last year, we highlighted the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, located in British Columbia, Canada. At the time, we questioned how a respected Judge – Justice Bruce Cohen – could have been bullied into submission by anti-salmon farming activists hell bent on confirming their feelings that salmon aquaculture was the “smoking gun” and responsible for the decline in 2009 sockeye returns to the Fraser River. After 2 years of evidence from the experts and spending $26 million of taxpayers’ money, the Judge found no smoking gun. However, despite this science based conclusion, Judge Cohen seemed to strangely focus many of his future “recommendations” toward salmon farmers, suggesting that, while innocent based on science, they are guilty in the court of public opinion and therefore must “prove” their innocence (public opinion was likely based on the 30 full-time anti-salmon farming activists who sat in court to jeer and cheer during the aquaculture hearings).
Time for a full admission: when we had initially wrote about Cohen’s whimpy response to activist bullying we had not read all 1200+ pages of the Final Report. Only now have we waded through the voluminous documents: http://www.cohencommission.ca/en/FinalReport/
Well, what we have found hidden in the back pages of Volume 3 is astonishing:
“I am also satisfied that marine conditions in both the Strait of Georgia and Queen Charlotte Sound in 2007 were likely to be the primary factors responsible for the poor returns in 2009. Abnormally high freshwater discharge, warmer-than-usual sea surface temperatures, strong winds, and lower-than-normal salinity may have resulted in abnormally low phytoplankton and nitrate concentrations that could have led to poor zooplankton (food for sockeye) production.” (Volume 3, page 59)
Wow! “Primary factors”, you say Judge? That sure sounds like the “smoking gun”!
And then this zinger:
“…data presented during this Inquiry did not show that salmon farms were having a significant negative impact on Fraser River sockeye…” (Volume 3, page 24).
Let’s summarize: No evidence suggests that salmon farms have any effect on Fraser River sockeye, and lack of food for salmon when they entered the ocean was likely the primary factor in the poor salmon return in 2009.
We’re sorry that we doubted you Bruce Cohen. But let’s be honest, you posted this so far back in the Final Report, that it sure seems that you wanted this important statement to be missed. Every journalist did.
In 2010, a record high return of sockeye salmon returned to the Fraser River: ~ 30 million.
In 2013, a record high return of pink salmon returned to the Fraser River: ~ 26 million.
What a waste of money – money that could have been spent on real salmon conservation work.