Aquaculture for all

Inquiry to Examine BC Salmon Loss

Salmonids Health +1 more

CANADA - The Canadian government is to convene a judicial inquiry to investigate the disappearance of millions of sockeye salmon from British Columbia's Fraser River fishery.

The sockeye salmon migration from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser hit a record low last summer — the second summer in the last three that that has happened — and that has commercial fishermen and environmental activists worried about the very survival of the species.

According to The Gazette, officials say that more than nine million fish appear to have simply disappeared, prompting the closure of the sockeye salmon fishery to both sport fishermen and commercial fishermen.

"We are very concerned about the low and falling returns of sockeye salmon in British Columbia," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons.

Trade Minister, Stockwell Day, who is also the regional minister for BC, will be in Vancouver today (6 November) to name the judge who will head the inquiry and to announce the inquiry's terms of reference.

The government will ask the inquiry, which will have the legal power to compel witnesses to testify, to begin its work early in the new year and report back to the government by May 2011.

"For weeks, the National Democratic Party (NDP) and BC communities, fishers and grassroots activists have been calling on the government to establish a judicial inquiry. The NDP office has been literally flooded with petitions calling on this government to stop its shallow public relations exercise and act. The hard work and activism finally paid off," said Peter Julian, an NDP MP.

Fishermen in BC's Lower Mainland have been at a loss to explain the disappearance, suggesting the contributing factors could range from overfishing — aboriginals and Alaskans are often blamed, frequently for no reason — to federal conservation policies, to a natural disaster.

Officials with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans have been zeroing in on climate change as a contributing factor, which has warmed up the normally cool Fraser River. Sockeye salmon feed mostly on plankton that thrives in cool waters.

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