Environmental groups await inquiry into declining Pacific salmon

Vancouver – A federal judicial inquiry into declining Pacific salmon is an important step towards rebuilding wild salmon stocks and the economies that depend on them, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

“Salmon are major indicators of the health of our environment and critical components of the ecosystems we depend on, from streams, to lakes, major rivers, estuaries, the coast and the offshore waters of the Pacific Ocean,” said Jay Ritchlin, director of marine and freshwater conservation at the David Suzuki Foundation. “We are supportive of a science-based inquiry, particularly one that examines not only one year’s problems, but also the long-term, systemic issues that need to be addressed in order to rebuild wild salmon populations throughout the Pacific.”

The Fraser sockeye fishery accounts for close to 50 per cent of the economic value of all salmon caught in B.C. The number of sockeye that returned from the ocean to the Fraser River this year was one of the lowest in the past 50, and followed two years of terribly low returns.

Habitat loss, climate change impacts, and fisheries mismanagement including overfishing and salmon farming have all contributed to declining salmon populations.

DSF has consistently emphasized that any inquiry must have a broad enough mandate to deal with management issues – including the impacts of fish farms to Fraser sockeye.

“With the announcement of this inquiry – not long after a recent court ruling that placed management of salmon farming squarely within the responsibility of the federal government – it’s imperative the government use this opportunity to take action on a well-accepted threat to wild salmon,” Ritchlin said.

He emphasized that a review should be science-based and hear from a full range of stakeholders including scientists, environmental groups, industry and First Nations.

“It is time to focus our efforts on rebuilding Pacific salmon, rather than finding a way to simply manage the current degraded state of salmon biodiversity and abundance,” Ritchlin said.

The David Suzuki Foundation will be available for comment on the terms of the inquiry being released Friday by Trade Minister Stockwell Day.

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