The federal New Democrats are calling for an immediate independent judicial inquiry into the catastrophic collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run to ensure that west coast salmon don’t go the way of Atlantic cod.

NDP Western Fisheries Critic Peter Julian and Fin Donnelly, NDP candidate in the New Westminster-Coquitlam by-election, say the inquiry is urgently needed to ensure the long-term viability of west coast salmon.

“This is an emergency that requires immediate attention, but the Harper Conservatives are turning a blind eye,” said Donnelly, who has dedicated most of his working life to protecting wild salmon.

“The worst thing is that this isn’t an emergency that happened overnight. It’s been building for a long time and successive Liberal and Conservative governments have let it spiral out of control.”

Julian pointed out that the Conservatives promised to initiate an inquiry while in opposition, and made it a key plank in their 2006 platform.

“They broke their promise to make protecting wild salmon a top priority, and now we’re in serious trouble,” he said. “We need action from this government, not broken promises.”

The NDP call for an inquiry has broad support from scientists and conservation groups. Renowned fish biologist Alexandra Morton said “we would still have the great North Atlantic cod stocks if a judicial inquiry had been called before they crossed the line of no return. The Fraser sockeye collapse pattern is so remarkably specific it could be deciphered if politics were swept aside. It is up to us. If we want the Fraser sockeye this inquiry is essential.”

Julian and Donnelly said the government should strike the inquiry immediately and produce a binding public report within six months.

Donnelly, who has been executive director of the Rivershed Society of BC for the past 13 years, says the wild salmon crisis will be a key issue in the November 9th by-election.



Issue: Early in 2009, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimated that between 10.6 and 13 million salmon would migrate this year to the Fraser River in British Columbia. Scientists and experts were shocked when ONLY 1.7 to 1.3 million salmon made the journey this summer, a mere 12% of what was expected.

The shocking disappearance of nine million sockeye salmon, in addition to the ensuing closure of the sockeye fisheries, highlights a crisis of unprecedented scale which is dramatically affecting the way of life and the livelihoods of West coast communities, first nations, recreational anglers, commercial fisheries and businesses connected to salmon fishing.

This crisis is on par with the collapse of the Atlantic Cod stocks, which devastated the East Coast economy.

The Harper Conservatives: have ignored the crisis, and broken their 2006 promise to “Establish an independent judicial inquiry to determine the cause of the collapse of the sockeye salmon stocks on the Fraser River”.

New Democrats: say it is essential to put an inquiry into place immediately to ensure the long term viability of wild salmon on the west coast.

What would the inquiry do? Created under the Federal Inquiry Act, the inquiry would combine a fact finding mandate with a policy prescription mandate. New Democrats say its binding recommendations should be presented within six months.

The inquiry would:
• Consult with scientists and stakeholders,
• Determine what went wrong with this year’s sockeye run,
• Present a public report with binding solutions within six months.