NDP Western Fisheries Critic Peter Julian and Fin Donnelly, NDP candidate in the New Westminster-Coquitlam by-election, say the inquiry is urgently needed to ensure the long-term viability of west coast salmon.
“This is an emergency that requires immediate attention, but the Harper Conservatives are turning a blind eye,” said Donnelly, who has dedicated most of his working life to protecting wild salmon.
“The worst thing is that this isn’t an emergency that happened overnight. It’s been building for a long time and successive Liberal and Conservative governments have let it spiral out of control.”
Julian pointed out that the Conservatives promised to initiate an inquiry while in opposition, and made it a key plank in their 2006 platform.
“They broke their promise to make protecting wild salmon a top priority, and now we’re in serious trouble,” he said. “We need action from this government, not broken promises.”
The NDP call for an inquiry has broad support from scientists and conservation groups. Renowned fish biologist Alexandra Morton said “we would still have the great North Atlantic cod stocks if a judicial inquiry had been called before they crossed the line of no return. The Fraser sockeye collapse pattern is so remarkably specific it could be deciphered if politics were swept aside. It is up to us. If we want the Fraser sockeye this inquiry is essential.”
Julian and Donnelly said the government should strike the inquiry immediately and produce a binding public report within six months.
Donnelly, who has been executive director of the Rivershed Society of BC for the past 13 years, says the wild salmon crisis will be a key issue in the November 9th by-election.
CATASTROPHIC COLLAPSE OF FRASER RIVER SOCKEYE
Issue: Early in 2009, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimated that between 10.6 and 13 million salmon would migrate this year to the Fraser River in British Columbia. Scientists and experts were shocked when ONLY 1.7 to 1.3 million salmon made the journey this summer, a mere 12% of what was expected.
The shocking disappearance of nine million sockeye salmon, in addition to the ensuing closure of the sockeye fisheries, highlights a crisis of unprecedented scale which is dramatically affecting the way of life and the livelihoods of West coast communities, first nations, recreational anglers, commercial fisheries and businesses connected to salmon fishing.
This crisis is on par with the collapse of the Atlantic Cod stocks, which devastated the East Coast economy.
The Harper Conservatives: have ignored the crisis, and broken their 2006 promise to “Establish an independent judicial inquiry to determine the cause of the collapse of the sockeye salmon stocks on the Fraser River”.
New Democrats: say it is essential to put an inquiry into place immediately to ensure the long term viability of wild salmon on the west coast.
What would the inquiry do? Created under the Federal Inquiry Act, the inquiry would combine a fact finding mandate with a policy prescription mandate. New Democrats say its binding recommendations should be presented within six months.
The inquiry would:
• Consult with scientists and stakeholders,
• Determine what went wrong with this year’s sockeye run,
• Present a public report with binding solutions within six months.
Standing Order 31/Member’s Statement – 19OCT09
Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, 9 million Fraser River sockeye vanished. That is a tenfold decline. It is a disaster for people, fish-based jobs and biodiversity.
Respected salmon biologists believe that this disappearance illustrates the impacts of climate change on water temperature and flows affecting salmon. Add in stresses from habitat loss, disease and lice, overfishing, pollution and predators and alas, we have a crisis. Where is the minister?
This emergency deserves a response. First, fund a scientific inquiry by recognized experts. Have them report back by next spring proposing immediate measures and commit to act on their advice. Second, create a partnership of government agencies, universities and private groups to track fish migration so that we know where they go, where they die and why. Last, reverse the decline in resources for DFO research assessment and enforcement.
Climate change is an ongoing ecological challenge for salmon, but there are actions that must be taken now.
For Immediate Release
October 9, 2009
Conservatives must get expert input on salmon collapse
OTTAWA – Liberals are demanding the Harper Conservative government immediately convene an independent panel of experts to study the collapse of the Fraser River salmon stocks.
“We want a scientific panel of independent, non-governmental experts, with a short mandate, to help us understand why this has happened, and we want the government to commit to implementing its recommendations right away,” said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
“This year, a record number of sockeye salmon left the lakes but never made it back. They simply disappeared, and the Conservatives have remained silent on how we address the crisis,” said B.C. Liberal MP Dr. Keith Martin.
Dr. Martin, who represents the riding of Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca, made the request yesterday in Question Period. Fisheries Minister Gail Shea totally ignored the request.
“What we know is that this phenomenon has been escalating since 2004,” said Liberal Fisheries Critic Gerry Byrne. “This is not some cyclical trend, it is an unprecedented threat to the fisheries of the West Coast.”
“When you make cuts to science, as the Conservatives have done, ecosystem changes cannot be studied, monitored and accurately predicted,” said Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre.
Dr. Martin pointed out how the previous Liberal government committed to protecting up to one-third of Canadian coastlines by 2012 in order to avoid catastrophes just like this one and give fish stocks safe spots.
“Currently only half a per cent of marine areas in Canada are protected, compared with five per cent for the U.S.,” he said. “We need action on this – and now. If animals can recover when their habitat is restored to optimal conditions, so can sockeye.”
Office of the Hon. Keith Martin, 613-996-2625
Office of the Hon. Gerry Bynre, 613-996-5511
Office of the Hon. Hedy Fry, 613-992-3213
40th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION
HANSARD • NUMBER 090
Monday, October 5, 2009
Mr. Speaker, Conservatives used to care about the B.C. salmon industry that supports tens of thousands of jobs. With the loss of two million fish in 2004, some B.C. Conservatives actually spoke on the issue, not very well of course, but at least they spoke. That was then, this is now. In 2009, with the disappearance of nine million sockeye salmon, far worse than in 2004, the sound of B.C. Conservative silence is deafening. When will an emergency summit be held on this crisis? When will the fisheries minister take effective action to address this catastrophe?
Mr. Speaker, I have already met personally with harvesters from British Columbia to hear their views on the situation and to provide input on how we should respond. I will be meeting with more British Columbians. The situation is serious; we do realize that. We are working hard to ensure that the response reflects the views of the fishermen out of B.C. interests and that it responds to their needs. The NDP member should at least wait until we present our plan before he starts to criticize anything.
That is the whole point, Mr. Speaker. Where is the action plan? Where is the rescue package? In 20 years, salmon enhancement funding has been slashed in half under Liberals and Conservatives. Decisions being made in Ottawa by Conservatives are crippling our B.C. salmon industry. The minister has not held a summit or provided funding to move to close containment for fish farms. The minister has not undertaken any meaningful action to address this crisis. Why did the Conservatives commit to taking action in 2004 if they had no intention of doing so in government? Why the utterly deplorable lack of action?
Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue and we take our response seriously. We want to do the right thing. We want to thank all the parties for their patience waiting for the response, but serious issues call for a very well planned and well thought out response. We will be bringing our plan forward.