Salmon Deserve Truth

Salmon Are SacredOn November 8 one of my local papers, the Chilliwack Progress, ran a letter from BC Salmon Farmers Association board member Clare Backman regarding the Cohen report on the decline of Fraser River sockeye. I found that the same letter with slight alterations had been run on previous dates in the Times Colonist, Courier-Islander, Alberni Valley Times & Vancouver Sun.

It irked me that Backman’s letter read “The report commends B.C. salmon farmers for collecting and providing an impressive 10 year fish health database that allowed commission-appointed experts to conclude there was no correlation between the health of farmed salmon and the decline of the sockeye.

Backman appears to give credit to salmon farmers for release of data that was actually released as a result of application by the Aquaculture Coalition and Conservation Coalition, participant groups appearing in defense of wild salmon. The application in July 2010 was backed up by the Paddle for Wild Salmon in October of that year. It resulted, after initial objection from the province, in data from January 1, 2000, to September 1, 2010, from 120 fish farms being made public as exhibits in the inquiry.

Further, Backman seems to suggest with “conclude there was no correlation between the health of farmed salmon and the decline of the sockeye” that the report absolved salmon farms from blame in the sockeye decline. To infer this from the report would be simply untrue.

I sent the letter below in response to Backman’s letter in the Chilliwack Progress. Copies were also sent to the other papers with changes for the titles and publishing dates of Backman’s letter in each.

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I read with interest the Nov. 8 letter from BC Salmon Farmers Association’s Clare Backman titled “No ‘smoking gun’ in salmon debate”. I must take issue with points in Backman’s letter.

I failed to find in the report commendation of “B.C. Salmon farmers for collecting and providing an impressive 10-year fish-health database” as Backman contends. I did find that in July 2010 the Aquaculture Coalition and Conservation Coalition, groups I would characterize as defenders of wild salmon, made “an application seeking documents relating to fish health, pathogens, and disease, as well as stocking data in farmed salmon” This application resulted in ten years data being made public as exhibits in the inquiry.

As to correlation between health of farmed salmon and decline of sockeye, it is true the report does not place blame exclusively. Indeed, the Commission’s terms of reference include “to conduct the Inquiry without seeking to find fault”. However regarding salmon farms Cohen states in Vol 3 page 22 “I therefore conclude that the potential harm posed to Fraser River sockeye salmon from salmon farms is serious or irreversible.”

The terms of reference directed the Commission to “make recommendations for improving the future sustainability of the sockey salmon fishery in the Fraser River”. We are fortunate to have the Honourable Justice’s exemplary work toward this end. I call upon British Columbians to download the report from http://www.cohencommission.ca and read it for themselves.

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