Best wishes to Salmon Commission

The Cohen Commission – appointed to investigate the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye runs – started its first hearings on Tuesday (June 15th), with submissions from participants on what topics it should be investigating.  There’s been some coverage in the media, from general controversy over how the Commission is handling itself to detailed coverage of daily events

Header_en_01.jpgThe Georgia Straight has published a series of commentaries about the Commission, including one by me entitled Saving BC sockeye salmon will require tough changes.  My essential point in that commentary is that the changes that are necessary to save and protect the sockeye will likely face fierce opposition from industry and other vested interests, and the most critical action the public can take is to press for their protection:

[T]he commissioner needs to examine the complex interplay between our development choices and the salmon—such as the impacts of cities, fish farms, and logging on the sockeye runs. … Put another way, Commissioner Cohen should be asking fundamental questions about the relationship between our economy and society and what the salmon need to survive and thrive. And that means that protecting the salmon may run up against well entrenched economic interests and cultural assumptions.

My opinion piece is, in some ways, fairly optimistic, in that I express my hope that Commissioner Cohen does ask the difficult questions that examine the fundamental and real causes of the collapse, and makes recommendations that will actually accomplish what is required for Sockeye recovery and protection.  Am I too optimistic?  And even if he does in fact make the right recommendations, will the politicians implement them? What do you hope or predict?

Regardless, with the launch of the Commission’s hearings, it’s an appropriate time to make a couple of comments on the difficult investigation that the Commission has ahead of it.  The first (below) follows up on some of West Coast Environmental Law’s earlier posts about the Commission.  The second, which I’ll post separately, considers recently raised concerns about the bias of the Commission’s scientific panel. 

Follow up on our earlier posts

Readers of this blog may recall that when the Commission first released its rules for who would get “standing” to become a “participant” at the hearings, West Coast Environmental Law wrote to Commissioner Cohen expressing concern that the rules might exclude public interest organizations from participating, and urged him to take a broad interpretation as to who should be allowed to participate.

The Commissioner’s decision on participation, issued April 15th, appears generally to have taken such a broad interpretation.  The Commissioner granted full standing to a “Conservation Coalition” of 6 environmental groups and one individual; additionally, he granted standing to a coalition of three groups specifically interested in aquaculture-related issues.  Overall, West Coast is satisfied with the inclusion of these participants. 

Andrewblogphoto.jpgBy Andrew Gage



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