Terms of Reference
Whereas the decline in sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River in British Columbia has necessitated the closure of the fishery for a third consecutive year, despite favourable pre-season estimates of the number of sockeye salmon expected to return to the Fraser River;
Whereas that decline has been attributed to the interplay of a wide range of factors, including environmental changes along the Fraser River, marine environmental conditions and fisheries management;
Whereas the Government of Canada wishes to take all feasible steps to identify the reasons for the decline and the long term prospects for Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks and to determine whether changes need to be made to fisheries management policies, practices and procedures – including establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter;
And whereas the Government of Canada has committed to full cooperation with an inquiry;
Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, hereby
(a) directs that a Commission do issue under Part I of the Inquiries Act and under the Great Seal of Canada appointing the Honourable Bruce Cohen as Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River (the “Inquiry”), which Commission shall
(i) direct the Commissioner
(A) to conduct the Inquiry without seeking to find fault on the part of any individual, community or organization, and with the overall aim of respecting conservation of the sockeye salmon stock and encouraging broad cooperation among stakeholders,
(B) to consider the policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (the “Department”) with respect to the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River – including the Department’s scientific advice, its fisheries policies and programs, its risk management strategies, its allocation of Departmental resources and its fisheries management practices and procedures, including monitoring, counting of stocks, forecasting and enforcement,
(C) to investigate and make independent findings of fact regarding
(I) the causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon including, but not limited to, the impact of environmental changes along the Fraser River, marine environmental conditions, aquaculture, predators, diseases, water temperature and other factors that may have affected the ability of sockeye salmon to reach traditional spawning grounds or reach the ocean, and
(II) the current state of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks and the long term projections for those stocks, and
(D) to develop recommendations for improving the future sustainability of the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River including, as required, any changes to the policies, practices and procedures of the Department in relation to the management of the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery,
1993 – The Pearse-Larkin Report is released entitled: Managing Salmon in the Fraser: Report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the Fraser River Salmon Investigation
1995 – The Fraser River Sockeye Public Review Board releases Fraser River Sockeye 1994: Problems & Discrepancies
“The Board believes that communication links were weak between and among the various branches of DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) at all levels”
“A culmination of long-term budget decline, organizational change, increasing enforcement demands, and low morale led to an unfortunate breakdown in DFO enforcement capacity”
December 2000 – Report by the Auditor General of Canada includes chapter 30: The Effects of Salmon Farming in British Columbia on the Management of Wild Salmon Stocks
“The Department (of Fisheries and Oceans) is not fully meeting its legislative obligations under the Fisheries Act to protect wild Pacific salmon stocks and habitat from the effects of salmon farming”
2002 – Alaskan government passes legislation requesting BC to maintain moratorium on fish farming until the safety of their own wild salmon can be guaranteed.
2003 – The Pacific Fisheries Research Conservation Council issues a number of recommendations to the DFO.
Recommendation 1: “The Council recommends that the precautionary principle should be applied in a much more rigorous way than is currently used in the evaluation of interaction risks between farmed and wild salmon stocks.”
March 2003 – DFO External Steering Committee publishes: Review of the 2002 Fraser River Sockeye Fishery
October 2004 – BC Auditor General publishes: Salmon Forever: An Assessment of the Provincial Role in Sustaining Wild Salmon
“It is not known what long-term effects salmon aquaculture is likely to have on the natural resource or the environment.”
October 2004 – The Auditor General of Canada includes a chapter on: Salmon Stocks, Habitat, and Aquaculture in her Report.
“Salmon aquaculture poses risks to wild salmon stocks and the marine environment”
“Significant gaps still exist with respect to the needed research on the potential effects of salmon aquaculture in aquatic ecosystems and on wild salmon stocks.”
March 2005 - The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans comes out with a Report entitled: HERE WE GO AGAIN… OR THE 2004 FRASER RIVER SALMON FISHERY (Also sometimes called the Wappel Report)
“By the end of the summer of 2004 preliminary escapement estimates of Fraser River sockeye suggested a major ecological disaster was unfolding.”
A Recommendation: “That funding be restored to DFO at levels adequate to the tasks of restoring science and enforcement programs”
June 2005 – Pacific Salmon Commission releases a report on the 2002 Fraser River Sockeye Salmon Fishing Season
December 2006 – The BC Legislature`s Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture releases its First Report
1.1 A rapid, phased transition to ocean-based closed containment begin immediately. Within three years ocean-based closed containment must be developed. Once developed, industry must transition to this technology within the subsequent two years.
February 2008 – Jennifer Ford and Ransom Myers publish a study called A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids which states:
“the presence of salmon farms reduced wild salmon survival by more than 50 percent per generation.”
February 2009 – Mr. Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia issues his decision in Morton v. British Columbia (Agriculture and Lands) 2009 BCSC 136
Nov. 5th, 2009 – The federal government announced that they would call a judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye fishery.
Nov. 6th, 2009 – Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day announced Friday morning in Vancouver that B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen was appointed commissioner of the inquiry.
May 1, 2011 – The inquiry is scheduled to report back with recommendations by this date.