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DFO approve salmon farm expansion before responding to Cohen report

June 21, 2013

“DFO should seek to approve the best sites to avoid negative impacts on wild stocks, such as Fraser River sockeye, rather than the best sites to produce farmed salmon.”
~ Justice Bruce Cohen

It appears that DFO is pressing forward with salmon farm expansion while dawdling over its response to the Cohen Report and its responsibility to protect wild salmon.

Queen Charlotte Strait salmon farms

In May DFO approved the expansion of two salmon farms in Queen Charlotte Strait which is a key migratory corridor for whales, dolphins, seabirds and fish—especially Fraser River sockeye salmon. The Marsh Bay and Shelter Bay salmon farms have been allowed a 45 percent increase in capacity and together are now licenced to raise 7,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon.

DFO is supposed to be protecting the outmigration route of Cultus Lake sockeye from the Fraser River. Ten years ago this stock was recommended for emergency listing as an endangered population by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

“To date, DFO has done nothing to protect Fraser River sockeye by implementing any of the recommendations from the Cohen Report,” said Will Soltau. “Yet they give the go ahead to transfer more farmed salmon production to sites along this important migratory corridor.”  

The extra production was transferred from three farms where salmon have not been farmed for many years. All three are far from the Fraser River sockeye migration route.

DFO has advised Living Oceans by email that we must file an Access to Information request to learn the reasons for their decision.

It was the crash of Fraser River sockeye runs that prompted the federal government to convene the Cohen Commission to look into why the fish were in decline. One of the commission’s recommendations was that DFO should explicitly consider proximity to migrating Fraser River sockeye when siting salmon farms. Living Oceans is working to transition the salmon farming industry from open net-pens to closed tanks that would protect the ecosystem.

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